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Unformatted text preview: a period;8 and, as we will see in the next chapter, it
also facilitated the development of other, heterodox lines of intellectual
Whereas the objective course to the clarification of one’s r i was fully
within the Confucian tradition, the subjective course appeared to have
been taken almost directly from Buddhism, and in particular Zen. It was
the course of “preserving one’s heart by holding fast to seriousness,”
which called for the clarification of r i by means remarkably similar to
Zen meditation. This does not mean, of course, that Neo-Confucianism
and Zen were in any true sense the same. Whereas Zen and Buddhism
in general urged individuals to renounce this world of suffering and perpetual flux and to seek entry to a transcendent realm of bliss (in the case
of Zen, through satori or “enlightenment”), Neo-Confucianism held that
the physical world was based on an inherently perfect moral order that
could be known through the illumination of r i writ small and the supreme
ultimate writ large. In short, whereas Buddhism aspired to perfection in
another world, Neo-Confucianism sought it in this world.
Neo-Confucianism’s focus on this world harked back to the most fundamental teaching of Confucius himself, which was his humanism. And
from this standpoint Neo-Confucianism, in keeping with all other Confucian schools, was primarily concerned with the conduct and affairs of
people in the here and now. Social order demanded a strict hierarchical
structuring of the classes and conformity by all people with the obligations imposed by the five primary human relationships: the relationships
between father and son, ruler and subject, husband and wife, older and
younger brothers, and two friends. It can readily be imagined how appealing the rulers of Tokugawa Japan found these highly conservative
social strictures that called upon people everywhere to accept without
question their lots in life and to place highest value in the performance
of such duties as filial piety to their parents and loyalty to their overlords.
Tokugawa social hierarchy (based on samurai as rulers, and peasants,
artisans, and merchants as ruled) had, in fact, emerged from medieval
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13