Chapter 2 of Tu Wei-ming’s essay on Chung-Yung is dedicated to the concept of a profound person and its understanding from the perspective of the Doctrine of the Mean. A profound person is an important concept because it encompasses a range of characteristics, abilities, and skills necessary for a person to achieve his or her high purpose of reaching the ideal of the unity of a human being and Heaven.
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First of all, the author stresses that profoundness is not inborn or inherent in only a few people. On the contrary, anyone can become a profound person through learning, adopting certain practices, and perfecting them throughout his or her life. Being profound does not mean exceeding the limits of human nature in a supernatural manner. In fact, the way of a profound person may not be so different from the way of a common person. Being profound, among other things, means getting to know yourself through close observation, which is not an impossible thing to do.
Profound people may do the same things common people do. However, they do them differently. Where a common person simply eats, a profound person eats and knows the real taste of the food; where a common person walks, a profound person walks with a purpose and a destination. Tu Wei-ming stresses, however, that the difference is not quantitative but qualitative. A profound person perceives things on a different level, thus becoming able to understand more.
A key aspect of being profound is watchful over oneself when alone. Profound people explore themselves courageously, and the exploration of self turns out to be a tool for a better understanding of other people and relationships among them. A profound person is not only attentive to himself or herself but also to the world around. It is about the ability to be cautious of something that one cannot see and apprehensive over something that one cannot hear. Practicing observation, exploration, and attention makes a person more aware of the way things are and more mindful of the way they go. This is how one becomes profound.
The fact that there are so few profound people despite the fact that everyone can become profound indicates that profoundness requires a lot of inner strength and constant dedication to learning about oneself and the world around. Yet, how do we know a profound person from a common one if their ways may be similar? There is a paradoxical combination in a profound person: simply realizing his or her nature as a human being, a profound person achieves a level of existence that no common person can achieve. That is why the uniqueness of profoundness is not about the structure of a person’s way but about how this way is integrated into one’s life. Overall, it can be said that profound people understand their ways better, thus having a purpose that most people do not have. The world constantly provides us with experiences that we are challenged to comprehend, and we should take these chances to find an inexhaustible source of developing into wiser, more understanding, and more profound people.
Tu Wei-ming’s writing is straightforward and dense—it immediately provides readers with many ideas and concepts to comprehend. However, it is also clear and appealing, allowing readers to learn about complex notions of Confucianism even without a background in studying it. The concept of a profound person is explained succinctly and thoroughly, illustrating the author’s effective delivery style.