Quote n°2450 |
Wang Wen-ch'eng Kung ch'uan-shu, or Complete Works of Wang Yang-ming, Instruction for a Practical Living, 3:45b-47b, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 35
This conversation concerning the famous "doctrine in four axioms" raises a fundamental issue and led to a bitter controversy both inside and outside the Wang Yang-ming School. The issue is whether the mind in its original substance transcends good and evil, as the Buddhists would say, or is fundamentally good, as the Confucianists insist.
In his teachings Wang Chi interpreted the four axioms to mean the absence of distinction between good and evil and that sagehood comes through a direct intuition of reality in its totality. Ch'ien Te-hung, on the other hand, interpreted them to mean that the distinction exists and that sagehood comes only through moral efforts to do good and overcome evil. Actually Wang Yang-ming taught both, as the conversation clearly shows. It is only because they represented two sharply divergent tendencies within the Wang Yang-ming School, one emphasizing intuitive awakening and the other emphasizing moral endeavor, that they have given the doctrine a one-sided interpretation.