Recognition of somatic training as an essential means towards philosophical enlightenment and virtue lies at the heart of the Asian practices of hatha yoga, Zen meditation, and T’ai Chi Ch’uan.  As Japanese philosopher Yuasa Yasuo insists, the concept of “personal cultivation,” or shugyō (an obvious analogue of “care of the self’), is presupposed in Eastern thought as “the philosophical foundation” because “true knowledge” cannot be obtained simply by means of theoretical thinking, but only through ‘bodily recognition or realization’ (tainin or taitoku).  From its very beginnings, East-Asian philosophy has insisted on the bodily dimension of self-knowledge and self-cultivation.  When the Confucian Analects advocate daily examining one’s person in the quest for self-improvement, the word translated as “person” is actually the Chinese word for body (shen 身). Arguing that care of the body is the basic task and responsibility without which we cannot successfully perform all our other tasks and duties, Mencius claims, “The functions of the body are the endowment of Heaven.  But it is only a Sage who can properly manipulate them.”  The classic Daoist thinkers Laozi and Zhuangzi similarly urge the special importance of somatic care: “He who loves his body more than dominion over the empire can be given the custody of the empire [Laozi, C17].”  “You have only to take care and guard your own body .. and other things will of themselves grow sturdy;” the Sage is concerned with the means by which to keep the body whole and to care for life”; “being complete in body, he is complete in spirit; and to be complete in spirit is the Way of the Sage (Zhuangzi).”


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