«Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership Conversation with Master Nan Huai-Chin Hong Kong, October 25th, 1999 Claus Otto Scharmer1 Nan ...»
Personality, as most people know, that we are able to stay awake, we are able to write, to think, etc. These are related to our sixth consciousness. These everybody agrees and knows. There’s the other side of this sixth consciousness. In Western culture, first you are able to memorize things, you have dreams, etc., these are related to what we call the subconscious. Some say it’s related to our sixth sense, etc. These are all the different names that people have been putting on to this phenomenon.
So that’s actually where the Western have not been able to go any further, that’s where they really stop. In the Orient, Oriental countries, we are able to study this much, much differently than the West. For example, you know, of course, there are some special powers related to hypnosis of the spiritual side, right? Some psychic people, some special deities, actually those all belong to the domain of this subconscious, related to that. It is our sixth consciousness which allows us to think clearly, to write things, etc., that’s called the clear consciousness.
Any other questions?
COS: Well, in regard to what he said to the limited impact from the Learning Center, I just want to say that we also talked about that, and we are now working also with quite a number of non-business institutions, like with government or schools.
Because we also realized that just working with business would be too narrow, but I don’t want to talk about this now. My question is in order to have an impact that really addresses the core of the whole society, what would it take?
IX. In the future, one just becomes like a machine
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: That would be related to the whole educational institutions of the East and the West, the whole thing. Just to use a metaphor, okay, maybe we have sixty billion people now, right, maybe its better to cut off all their heads. But make sure they have their baby first, their new baby is not being polluted.
Meaning that if you cut everyone, only the kids still stay alive, and then you can start fresh. Otherwise it’s actually very, very difficult.
There’s something you probably already know, that women even have more information on this than you, like with the introduction of working at computer, etc.
Within three or five years’ time, we’re going to see major changes because they rarely use their brain anymore.
Kids, kindergarten kids, already know how to play with the computers. That means that they can’t really stop thinking. You know, this thing is going to spread very, very quickly. In the future people will no longer listen to all your management thinking, whatever, they’re going to listen to the computer. In the future, one just becomes like a machine. Maybe in the future people will ask the computers questions, like, should I get married now? Ask the computer. Should I get married? Should I have sex? Ask the computer, or you have time now to do it? It sure is scary, yeah.
So if you are talking about the leadership, in today’s time, all those politicians who are supposed to be leading the country or the world, none of them have any real thoughts or are real thinkers. Of course, they do have a thought, which is just making money. That’s the main thought they have, but nothing else, really.
So all of these are problems of the society. You guys have good hearts and you are trying to help the society, but then let me tell you that this is a tough problem.
Humans are big problems themselves. But first of all, have peace of mind yourselves first, let’s calm our own mind first.
Teacher, ever since he was a young kid has been worrying about the future of the human race. Now he said, “I’m 80 years old and I’m not going to worry about it.” Or to put it differently, maybe we can say that humans are beyond salvation, meaning there’s no way to save them anymore, in a sense. They’re already in real bad shape.
You guys are still trying hard to do something for society. I want to tell you that if you’re only doing it with the management, only to do it from this angle, is not enough, for sure. There’s still a problem with education. Education and culture.
COS (to Zhao): I know that I have asked my question already four times. But I do not think that I’ve got the answer yet. So if I was to ask one more question, I would ask this question a fifth time. Do you think I should?
Professor Zhao: Go ahead.
X. On the Origin of the Self COS: My last question concerns the nature of self. What is the nature of the self, both the self with the small s and the Self with the capital S – what is the nature of these selves and where is the source from which they originate, both individually and collectively?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: The small self and the big Self come from the same source. The mind comes from the same thing. One origin for both of them. The whole universe is just one big Self. Religious people call it God. Philosophers call it the fundamental nature. Scientists call it energy. Buddhists call it the Atma. Chinese call it the Tao. The Arabs call it Allah. So every culture, in a sense, they know there’s something there, ultimate something.
Religious people, we just personalize this. Make him like a person, like a god. Okay, so this god is this supernatural, has all these super capacities, etc. That’s religion.
Philosophers use logic to analyze it and try to get down to the bottom of the conclusion. The scientists want to uncover or try to find the big Self in all of this, you know, the physical research, etc. If you really look at human culture, they say it starts with religion and then people begin to have doubts about religions, and why, and then they begin to do research on them. Then you come to philosophy. And then there’s still doubt about it. It’s all based on reason and logic. It’s too abstract, it’s not real. So they want to do experiments with it, and then that’s how science became to evolve, to emerge. That is the Western civilization’s development. From religions, to philosophy, to natural science.
Religion, science, philosophy, they’re all trying to look for this big Self, this origin of life. This big self was originally just one body, altogether in one. Let’s give you a metaphor analogy.
Electricity. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, right? But it’s all over the place, actually, with energy. The source of energy is actually one thing. Everything from that system is one thing. It should be that the big Self, that we all have this. Part of it can come out and generate this, another part of it could come out and give you this.
So this is the large Self. Of course, when this is a small self, you are going to have many things happening there, also. Layers and layers and layers. So there’s a self there. So for cultivation, learning Buddhism, the first thing you do is try to get rid of this view of the [small] self.
Once you reach the state of no self, the small self, you reach the state of the big Self.
Getting rid of the small self you reach the state of the big self or the large self.
Compassion, loving, etc., all of that originates from the big Self. You no longer will be selfish from that large self.
XI. The Consciousness-Only School This is actually a whole system. If you are able to spend some time in really studying the consciousness and then go back to Germany and publish them in German? As he said, you would probably make a big name for yourself. Most people were talking materialistic or only the spiritual or the only the realistic school of thought. Well, in
this one batch of Buddhist studies, they call them the consciousness the consciousness-only school, can also become very scientific, also.
The Americans, the British, all of them have touched upon these, but haven’t really gone into it. If you spend like a few years on this consciousness-only, then you’d become a big figure in the field.
You’re still young. You have many years till you’re 80 years old, right? You can spend like a few years, five or six years, and study this. Then you can make really something out of it. They already have some English translations of the consciousness-only school teachings, but then you have to create new words in German, put them into German. Nobody really knows it, so if you are able to publish that it will be shocking to the intellectual community.
Especially when Teacher teach this to you, he will combine them with science, and that will make it even more in touch with the reality now. This we just talk about, we’re just chatting about it. It doesn’t mean I’m asking you to do this. I’m not asking you to do this. I say this because if looks like you are very serious. That’s why I mention this. Especially since you came all the way just to have a talk. I’ll feel bad if you go home empty-handed.
COS: I’m not going empty-handed.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Send a fax to Ken, Ken gives it to Teacher, so we know this is from Peter, etc., this whole thing, so you are able to come here.
Otherwise, it’s oh, no, you cannot come. Because so many people who want to come and see Teacher, usually they cannot find Teacher. I’m too old, I don’t want to do all these things.
Master Nan/Ken: This is called Mere Consciousness School in Buddhism. It is so translated in English.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Actually if Teacher would do it, he wouldn’t just say, oh, this is a part of the Buddhist teaching. He would say this was Consciousness-Only teaching. Teacher would combine them with more than science.
It won’t be like the traditional way of doing it. It takes a long time to study this, it takes patience. It takes a special environment for this kind of thing to happen, this kind of lecture to happen.
You may want to look around in the library upstairs and see if you can find any others on mere consciousness, yeah.
Master Nan/Translator Ken: And you need to translate from English to German, once you have the English translation. There are a lot of machines that just translate automatically, and they’re quite good. I think the structure of the German language is very close to the English language.
You know this guy, a famous monk. He went to India to get the Buddhism. He has written a book about this Mere Consciousness school. That has been translated into English already. That’s the book that Ken mentioned a moment ago.
COS: I see. What was the title again of that book?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Mere Consciousness. It’s a yellowish cover.
COS: I see.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: It was a Chinese who translated this into English. Not many people are studying this in China. Of course if Teacher talks about this, as he said earlier, he will combine it with Mere Consciousness school teachings, combine it with like science, etc. To really uncover the secrets of this teaching, because actually, you know, I, myself, many Chinese or many Westerns already read the book but really couldn’t get anything out of it, because they really couldn’t understand it.
That book is only one book within the many books of the consciousness school teachings. It’s this big, this thick. There’s lady, like an Indian lady on the picture. It’s not easy to find the book. You have to go to a special store to get it. I think the Library of Congress or the big libraries might have it. On the top, it’s up here, an Indian lady’s picture. And on the inside, the translator’s picture, a gentleman from Hong Kong.
COS: I see. What’s the relationship between the consciousness school and science?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Most people just take it as a good teaching, especially the people who are studying social sciences. You question about where does life come from, the origin of life, etc., all of these are contained in the consciousness school. And in that teaching, they sort of analyze all of these in great, great detail. Every aspect of the self. Teacher’s going to show you what he looks like.
He has to go to another place to get it now. We’ve come so far away from those days, Teacher, you know, he’s going to show you this and that, to make sure that you know.
COS: I am happy, so he does not have to do that.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: He wants to give you a lot.
COS: I really appreciate that, but please tell him I’m really not going empty-handed.
So he doesn’t have to, you know what I mean.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Okay.
COS: And I really mean it.
XII. Reflection I had three reactions to the transcript. My first reaction after reading the transcript was disappointment. It seemed shallow and flat compared with the experience of the real conversation in Hong Kong. At the time, I felt we had a rich conversation.
Maybe 5% of that experience shows up in the transcript.
At the end of our interview, I thought Master Nan hadn’t really answered my questions. After rereading the text I found myself having a second reaction. I noticed, very much to my own surprise, that the conversation did, in fact, touch on all the questions I’d posed to him.
What I found was that my first question, regarding the revolutionary changes that reshaping our world (the technological, social, and consciousness-based shifts) was addressed by Master Nan in his remarks regarding the new spiritual path of the future (which will be different from the paths of the past) and that the near future will still be governed by the primacy of money.
He responded to the second question (what would it take to relink these three aspects and streams according to their common underlying source?) by pointing out that management was an insufficient starting point. He also indirectly indicated what a more profound starting point could be: those precepts outlined in the Great Learning, i.e.,
• to truly understand the nature of man and the universe (transcending the split between matter and mind)
• to truly help all people (overcoming the social split)
• never stop until you have reached the ultimate goodness (overcoming the core issue of ecology: to re-link what we do with what we see, think, and say).