<Editor's Note> This is the interview of Prof. RHEE Dongshick with announcer in the TV talk show
aired on Dec. 8, 1990 on the Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS). It was translated by
Dr. YUN Woncheol (State University of New York, USA., at that time).
MC Good evening. This program is designed to provide a reflection on the meaning of our life. Our topic tonight is the Tao.
We would call a person who is extremely good at something a "Master of Tao." And to a person who is absorbed in thinking, we would say in joke, "Are you practicing the Tao?" Tonight, we are to think about the true meaning of the Tao, and how it influences our lives.
Our guest tonight is Dr. RHEE Dongshick. He is a psychiatrist; but has also studied the Eastern philosophy and become a reputable authority in it, and advocated the significance of the Tao all over the world, including the West. Good evening, Dr. RHEE.
RHEE Good evening.
MC There must be reasons for you, as a psychiatrist, to have been devoted to the study of the Tao.
What aspect of the Tao has fascinated you? What does the Tao mean?
RHEE You introduced me as an authority in the Eastern philosophy, but I don't deserve that title.
I simply happened to be interested in the Eastern philosophical tradition while I was studying psychiatry and psychoanalysis in the United States, and since then have been making an effort to have an understanding of it.

Eastern people, including Koreans, would regard the Western tradition as the best, without appreciating the value of their own tradition. I thought there must be something significant in our tradition when it has
a history of five thousand years. So I began to study Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, etc. and found that they have suggested excellent ways of treating mental problems. Their ways seemed to be better than that of the Western psychiatry or psychoanalysis. Indeed, I think the Eastern tradition contains an ultimate solution. In an effort to advocate the excellence of Eastern tradition, I made presentations on the issue at about twenty international conferences on the basis of my comparative study of the Western psychoanalysis and the Eastern tradition of the Tao.

Seen from the perspective of our Tao tradition, the Western psychoanalysis falls much short of the ultimate solution provided by the Eastern tradition. For example, there is a famous Buddhist text called "Ten-Oxen-Pictures" describing ten stages of practice. The ultimate state there is that of "Herder and Ox Both Forgotten" or, in other words, the stage where ''There is neither object nor subject.'' The Western psychoanalysis can never reach it. It falls at best in the seventh stage of the Pictures, that of "The Ox Is Forgotten, but the Oxherder Is Still Present." It's because the Western psychoanalysis never gives up its attachment to human subject, while the highest stage can be reached only when self-attachment has been overcome. That's what I've found and tried to advocate to the West.

Some specialists in the Eastern philosophy would take the Tao as something beyond reality, so lofty
for us to reach. But the Tao means Nature itself or, more simply, absence of desire. When we meet a person, we used to mistake the impression or idea we have of that person as what he really is. The Tao means elimination of that kind of mistake, and it can be achieved by removing distracting ideas and language from subject/object relation. Ideas and their linguistic expressions work as a barrier between you and the object, hindering appreciation of the true original nature of the reality. When that barrier has gone, the subject and the object become one. Then you yourself become, to say, a clear mirror that reflects the whole Reality as It is. This is the stage of so-called "total penetration of the Tao" or "completely mastering Tao."

Lao-tzu's Tao Te ching begins with a warning against the common mistake mentioned above: descriptions and names of the Tao are not the true Tao itself. We may talk about the Tao in indefinitely various ways. But all of them are nothing but mere indicators of the Tao or Reality. They are like a finger pointing to the Reality. We used to see only the finger, not the Reality it points, and think "That's the Tao!" This is the fundamental illusion of mankind. And it is desire that hinders us from seeing the true Reality directly. Therefore the philosophical and religious traditions of the East, whether Confucian or Buddhist, regard elimination of desire as their ultimate goal. To empty the mind of desire―that's the Tao. Empty mind can see people and things as they truly are. Insofar as you have desire, however slight it may be, you can never stop deceptive and artificial articulation of your idea or impression of the reality―people, things, social phenomena, etc. To mistake one's own idea of the reality as the reality itself―it is called ''projection'' in psychoanalysis. So called the ''Non-Doing," the ultimate goal of Eastern philosophy and religious practice, refers to the state of 'No Desire' or, in other words, of perfect personality. It never means ''doing nothing'' or mere inactivity.
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※ Ten-Oxen-Pictures illustrate the process of purification of mind. Pictures of this site are Ten-Oxen-Pictures of Songgwangsa Temple.