In 1995, Peter M. Senge had an interesting conversation with Master Nan, the Chinese Zen master who lived in Hong Kong. In China he was considered an extraordinary scholar because of his integration of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Peter asked him if he thought that the industrial age was going to create such environmental problems that we would destroy ourselves and that we had to find a way to understand these problems and change industrial institutions. And he didn’t completely agree with that. It wasn’t the way he saw it. Master Nan saw it at a deeper level, and he said, “There’s only one issue in the world. It’s the reintegration of mind and matter.”[i]
Master Nan published later a reinterpretation of Confucius’s “Great Learning” essay, one of two central texts in Confucianism. The central section of the “Great Learning” essay reads like a crucial-dialogue-in-action process from macro to micro and then back:
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the world, rst ordered well their own States.
Wishing to order well their States, they first harmonized their families.
Wishing to harmonize their families, they first cultivated their persons.
Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.
Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.
Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their awareness.
Such extension of awareness lay in the investigation of the underlying matrix of mind and matter.
The underlying matrix of mind and matter being investigated, awareness becomes complete.
Awareness being complete, thoughts then become sincere.
Thoughts being sincere, hearts then become rectified.
Hearts being rectified, persons then become cultivated.
Persons being cultivated, families then become harmonized.
Families being harmonized, states then become rightly governed.
States being rightly governed, everything under heaven then comes in balance.[ii]
“The important part is to actually understand yourself, understand your opening process” is to Master Nan the crucial lesson of “The Great Learning”.
[ii] Otto Scharmer and Karin Kaufer. Leading from the Emerging Future. From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. Applying Theory U to Transforming Business, Society, and Self. Oakland, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2013. p.p. 142-143.