I started to write this column after reading Wang Yangming’s Instructions for Practical Living at the Temple of Confucius in Beijing, and finished it while I was in Jakarta. Wang Yangming (Ming Dynasty, 1472-1518) is a Chinese Philosopher who is classified as Neo-Confucian. Yangming started Youmeigaku, an influential philosophy, in my view, that can encompass the large part of Asia. I am writing here the three contemporary meanings of Yomeigaku.
1) Individual power is maximized, but consideration is given to the community
Yangming advocated the concept that “The mind is principle.” This means that reason is not found in the scriptures written in orthodox Neo-Confucianism textbooks, but rather in your own mind. As a result, people escaped from scriptures and doctrine and became free. Today, in our world full of manuals and regulations, this means that it is fine to live your own life, not a life expected by others. If I were to take up an example of driving, most people chose to drive efficiently using automatic transmission system which changes gears smoothly to prevent the engine from exceeding 3,000 rpm. Yangming teaches us that if you love to drive, it would be more fun to control the transmission yourself, pushing down the accelerator pedal until the engine roared. By doing so, your beliefs, words, and actions begin to align with each other. As a consequence, you are able to utilize the full power of your mind into your words and actions.
However, Yangming did not unconditionally consent to anything that the mind desired. He placed a person’s “innate knowing” at the center, and advocated to “perform innate knowing” that can tell between good and evil. In a sense, this condition is a state in which your subjective mind balances with the objective mind so as to be true to yourself while being considerate of others. Through this balancing, your awareness covers both you and others simultaneously, and Ki, the energy that exists in the universe, flows powerfully in and out through yourself. (All benevolence in one)
2) Provides a methodology for becoming a good person
Every human being has a desire to become a good person. However, human beings have earthly desires, and experience never-ending worry and suffering. Although called a genius, Wang Yangming did not pass the imperial examination until his third try, and even after becoming a government official, he was whipped for criticizing the person in power at that time, and banished to the provinces. However, he attained enlightenment in his place of banishment, Long Chang (near Guiyang in today’s Guizhou Province in China), and capturing the hearts of the people through local education, he returned to the central government, and served as the Senior Deputy of the Censors Court, stopping corruption by local officials, suppressing riots and rebellions, overcoming all hardships. Accordingly, he taught “training yourself through acts.”
With the importance of performing innate knowing to become a good person, Wang Yangming recommended that his disciples engage in training they had arranged themselves to perform innate knowing. Specifically, he taught them to remove human desires from their hearts, and to clean them up each and every day. Today’s legal system stipulates that one has not committed a crime unless he or she takes actual actions. However, Wang Yangming, who advocated “The unity of knowledge (thought) and actions,” wanted his people to stop even to slightly think about a conduct that was against the law, and to correct those thoughts from the very roots.
So, is it true to think that you can become a great person (a saint) by performing innate knowing? Performing innate knowing at the center, removing human desires from the heart, and striving to clean it each day, you should be able to become a person which others would be grateful to. If there is also the “will” that burns in your heart as found in “the mind is principle,” I believe that you can become a good person (a saint). After all, the first Wakanohana (a famous sumo wrestler) has said “Only those who continue with the intense desire to become a Yokozuna (Grand Champion) can become a Yokozuna.”
3) A bridge between Japan and China
The landscape of Asia, with its diverse peoples and cultures, is not uniform. However, China and Japan have many points in common, with both well acquainted with Confucian culture and both having received the legacy of Buddhism. Yomeigaku was born in China and further developed in Japan. In particular, the Meiji Restoration—Japan’s modern revolution—cannot be discussed without mentioning Takamori Saigo, Shinsaku Takasugi and Hirobumi Ito. Takasugi and Ito studied at Shoin Yoshida’s Shokasonjuku academy. Shoin Yoshida was an educator based on Youmeigaku. Although there are still issues between Japan and China, including territorial disputes, postwar understanding, intellectual property rights, Wang Yangming was born in China and Yomeigaku continues to be respected in Japan. I hope that the mutual understanding between the two countries will deepen through Yomeigaku.
Further, I believe that, in the sense of Asia displaying its presence to Europe and to the United States, explaining the contemporary meaning of Eastern Philosophy will contribute in maintaining cultural richness to the global society.
From October Term 2014, Mr. Akio Hayashida’s An Authentic Introduction to Yomeigaku will be used as the textbook for the “Keiei Dojo” course in GLOBIS’ English MBA Program. I would like to express my deep gratitude to GLOBIS graduates, Fumihiko Nagahisa, who achieved his Personal Mission to provide his juniors an opportunity to learn Yomeigaku in English, and his classmates, Kazunori Inabe, So Kikuya, Sayaka Masaki and Darren Menabney who contributed in the English translation. I would like to thank GLOBIS staff, Brian Cathcart and Allan Wu for editing. And of course, I am grateful to the author, Mr. Akio Hayashida for his generous guidance. It is my hope that the MBA students who study Yomeigaku will become a bridge between Japan and China, pursue their personal mission with Youmeigaku’s thoughts held firmly in their hearts, and create and innovate societies.