Liang Shuming - Liang and Religion

Liang and Religion

At the age of 89 in an interview with Alitto, Liang proclaimed himself a Buddhist. He had been interested in Buddhism since his youth, which he often attributed to his feelings that many of the mistakes of the past had been made due to a focus on the external world for answers that come from within. In his article ‘’DOUBT’’, Liang expounded on the theory of ether in physics to maintain that much of the world is illusory and one must simply be conscious of this fact in order to see the world as it truly is and attain freedom. Liang wrote an ‘’Introduction to Indian Philosophy’’ where he explored many of the key concepts in Buddhism to reveal what he saw as its foundations. In ‘’CONC’’, he explored the history of consciousness in Buddhism and attributed the Consciousness-Only school to Asanga. He also maintained that people only get an illusory image through observations and opposed the idea of logical inference on the basis that it only explains conceptual questions.

Liang, like many intellectuals of the time was very critical of Chinese folk religion. He believed that it was too primitive to allow society to reach a high level of socialization, while at the same time promoting conservatism that impeded social development and promoted low moral standards and selfishness. He felt that Confucianism was China’s answer to religion as it provided a way to harmonize with the cosmos instead of being isolated from that which you worship.

In contrasting Confucianism with religions he came to two conclusions. First that unlike western religion everyone is thought to have innate moral reason, which means they must not all have uniform morals dictated by an institution like the church. And, Second, in his ‘’Treatise on the Differences and Similarities between Confucianism and Buddhism’’ that the two were not unrelated, but while Confucianism is based on the person and talks about moral character, that Buddhism transcends the person to talk about a final understanding. When ordered in 1974 to criticize Confucius and Lin Bao, he refused and instead wrote Human mind and Human Life. He was often considered a beacon of intellectual freedom as well as China’s conscience.

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