To Become a Sage


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Introduction: A 28 page overview of the rise of the Neo-Confucian movement in China and its introduction and development in Korea. This includes a biography and intellectual contexting of  Yi T'oegye and a discussion of his Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning.

Presentation Address to King Sŏnjo, the young Korean king for whom T'oegye composed the Ten Diagrams. T'oegye explains his reasons for creating this distillation of the entire scope of the Neo-Confucian vision into a format that could be mounted on a ten paneled screen.

Chapter One: Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate. This Diagram by Chou Tun-I became the cornerstone of Neo-Confucian cosmology and metaphysics, laying out the essential framework for understanding the universe and man's place in it.

Chapter Two: Diagram of the Western Inscription.  Chang Tsai's short essay, the Western Inscription, moved Confucian ethical thought onto a new metaphysical foundation.

Chapter Three: Diagram of the Elementary Learning. Chu Hsi's compendium of passages drawn from the Classics and from outstanding Confucians. He intended it as a presentation of the most fundamental values and teachings of the Confucian tradition for the instruction of the young. It became the gateway to serious study for generations thereafter, and in Korea was considered virtually one of the Classics.

Chapter Four: Diagram of the Great Learning. The Great Learning became one of the Four Books, the core of the revised Neo-Confucian canon of Classics. For Neo-Confucians it became the text that describes a path of self-cultivation which incorporates the new philosophy and leads to the ultimate perfection of Sagehood.

Chapter Five: Diagram of the Rules of the White Deer Hollow Academy. The third and last chapter on Learning, these rules composed by Chu Hsi structurally integrate the Elementary Learning and the Great Learning.

Chapter Six: Diagram of "The Mind Combines and Governs the Nature and the Feelings." A presentation of Neo-Confucian psychological theory, including Korean developments. Beginning with T'oegye, Korean scholars pushed the inquiry into this area of Neo-Confucian thought further than it was taken in either China or Japan.

Chapter Seven: Diagram of Chu Hsi's Explanation of Humanity. Humanity (jen) is the virtue of virtues in the Confucian tradition. Neo-Confucian metaphysics explicated in a new way the unity of man and the universe, and this invited new thinking about jen that moved decisively beyond traditional formulations. The new thinking is crystallized in Chu Hsi's famous Explanation.

Chapter Eight: Diagram of the Study of the Mind. T'oegye takes this diagram from a work that influenced him profoundly, Chen Te-hsiu's Classic of the Mind-and-Heart. He uses it here as both an introduction and summation of Neo-Confucian ascetical doctrine, the method of cultivating one's mind-and-heart, which is the central concern of Chen's Classic.

Chapter Nine: Diagram of the Admonition for Mindfulness Studio. Mindfulness is a technique and practice that stands at the center of this approach to the cultivation of the mind-and-heart. It occupies a central position in the diagrams of the last three chapters (8-10), but receives its full thematic treatment in this chapter.

Chapter Ten: Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late." This chapter describes the practice of mindfulness in the context of the fluctuating rhythm of a typical day. Having begun in Chapter One with the grand cosmic framework, we conclude the Ten Diagrams with a depiction of a well-lived day.

Appendix on Terminology: Explication of important Neo-Confucian terminology.



Selected Bibliography