The Scripture of the Fo...


The Scripture of the Founding Master

Chapter Six: Doubts Clarified


A person asked Yi Chaech’ŏl, “I’ve heard that your teacher is a sage. So does he know everything about human affairs and universal principles?” Chaech’ŏl said, “He knows everything.” The person said, “Does he know how to build airplanes and trains?” Chaech’ŏl said, “A sage understands the fundamentals of human affairs and universal principles. Specialists in those fields would know about those technical matters.” The person said, “Then, isn’t it an inconsistency to say that he understands everything about human affairs and universal principles?” Chaech’ŏl replied, “By ‘fundamentals’ we mean the root. Whatever the object, if one understands the root, then the branches and leaves will also be included. To give you an example, a local governor or the head of a nation may not fully understand what a certain clerk or a technician knows at the bottom rung of the administrative ladder. If, however, he understands well the fundamentals of administration and directs each department in an orderly fashion, then would you say that he understands that matter, or not? A sage’s knowledge is also like this: since he comprehends the general meaning of great and small, being and nonbeing, as well as right and wrong, benefit and harm, we say that he knows everything about human affairs and universal principles; this does not mean that he is well versed in the various areas of technical competence. Since he thoroughly comprehends the general meaning, myriad types of knowledge are all contained within its main principles and scope.” Chaech’ŏl returned and reported the conversation to the Founding Master, who said, “On the whole, what you said is right, Ilsan [Yi Chaech'ŏl's honorific dharma name].”