Zhu Yuan

Introspection a way to seek peace of mind

Updated: 2009-11-12 07:50

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Do you often talk to yourself? If you do, it would be easier for you to have a peaceful mind even while facing a problem. If you don't, there is a book that can teach you how to converse with yourself: Conversations with God. Its Chinese translation was published in July this year.

It is actually a sequence of nine books written by Neale Donald Walsch. In the book, Walsch asks questions and God answers. At a low period in his life, Walsch wrote an angry letter to God, asking questions such as why his wife was not working. Having written down all his questions, he heard a voice over his right shoulder say: "Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just venting?" He turned around and saw no one, but he felt answers to his questions filling his mind and decided to write them down. That is the inception of his books.

For us, non-Christians, it is not important whether God really talks or, if he does, who he talks to. What really makes a difference is whether we want to listen. The voice of God states in Book One that words are not the truth, and so readers must ultimately take what is being said and consult their own feelings to determine if they are in agreement with it.

I am not a Christian. Nor do I believe in any other religion. But I have enough respect for all religions and believers. I believe every religion tells believers to do good deeds and keep away from sin. From that perspective, I would rather consider Confucianism as something akin to a religion. It actually has been playing the role of religion for Chinese people as other faiths have for their believers.

The Analects of Confucius provide Chinese with a range of ways in which they can become a person of moral integrity. One of Confucius' disciples reminds people of the necessity to reflect three times a day on whether one has been loyal to friends, has kept his/her words or practiced what he/she has learned.

This is quite similar to what a Christian is supposed to do. A person can explicitly deny Christianity but is existentially committed to the values that for a Christian are concretized in God. A Chinese many not believe in any religion, but he/she in reality is committed to the basic values that most of the religions advocate.

This is because Chinese in ancient times, despite being without a religion, believed in hell and heaven, as well as afterlife. Those acted as scruples that made them think twice before committing a sin. And they were also the reason they believed in retribution.

Introspection has been a tradition among Chinese, intellectuals in particular. It has helped them aspire to be a person of moral integrity. And I believe conversations with oneself should play the same role as conversations with God as long as one is committed to values.

Now, when an increasing number of people are not going to church in the West and more and more Chinese are pursuing material comfort unscrupulously, it is very important to develop the habit of talking to oneself - just like a Christian has a conversation with God. Such conversations can help us seek strength from our inner recess to overcome the difficulties we run into, and most of all, help us relocate where the meaning of life lies.

E-mail: zhuyuan@chinadaily.com.cn


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