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History Of Viet Nam

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Nguyên-Tử Của Việt-Nam Và Quốc- Tế

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History Of Viet Nam

The Equilibrium Of Vietnamese Culture

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


"Some went east to Hong-Kong and Oklahoma, searching a new way; others went west to study Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau". _ ( Phan-Bội-Châu ).

But after the First World War the disappointed leader of the "Go-East Movement" came back with this advice: "If you seriously want to accomplish something, it is better to know what you want in full detail". The leader's mission was not totally unsuccessful, however, because he began to encourage his countrymen to study Western and Eastern philosophy and morality. This lesson is left to us by our fathers who gave their lives for it, an indication of the critical nature of the situation and of how deep lay the causes of this sickness. No temporary remedy can be used. We think we can become powerful by adopting Western industrialization techniques, but in doing so, we only give the appearance of strength. In reality, the rottenness of our society lies deeper. We should keep in mind the example of China under the Manchu dynasty and Việt-Nam during the last century, when dismemberment of these nations occurred because no attempt was made to cure their social problems at the roots.

III . The Cultural Equilibrium of the Old Vietnamese Agricultural Society.

In reality, the social problem consists in searching for an adjustment between the old Oriental and agricultural culture and the new urban and industrial Western civilization. This task is extremely difficult. For almost a century our fathers tried their utmost and did not succeed. The Japanese people have been successful in assimilating Western culture and, as the result; have made their country a more powerful one. They are not necessarily more gifted than we Vietnamese (or God's favourites). That the Vietnamese people, intelligent, active, laborious, and studious, are able to harmonize contradictory currents of culture has been proven by our history. Living on the land called Indo-China by geographers, the Vietnamese people have fulfilled the historical mission confided to them by their geographical situation. This land with the shape of an " S " has not only a geographical significance, but also a social and human one. The history of thousands of years of our people is the history of the harmonization of the two ancient Oriental cultures, Confucianism ad Buddhism. Buddhist culture teaches the internal peace of soul, and while Confucianism teaches the value of external activities to attain charity in real-life situations. Buddhist culture comes from India and Confucian culture from China, and the two are extremely contradictory. One is static, the other pragmatic; one is religious and the other atheistic. Exposed to these divergent currents of thought, the Vietnamese people had to choose between loss of their equilibrium by failure to achieve a resolution of the contradictions of Buddhism and Confucianism, thus becoming identified partly with India and partly with China; and the other alternative of survival as an independent nation through a synthesis of these thought systems; in other words, a unification of reason and sentiment.

During the dynasties of Đinh, Lê, Lý, Trần, Lê, and Nguyễn, we have shown that we are able to write a glorious page of history in this part of Southeast Asia. This has been due to the realization of social and cultural equilibrium founded on the principle of the harmony of sentiment and reason. This is also the point of view of the poet Nguyễn-Công-Trứ, who realized the Unity of thinking beyond different theories. Indeed the Universal is above different points of view. The Vietnamese people until the present time have preserved personality because of their ability to achieve unity and equilibrium through a conception harmonizing reason and sentiment.

King Trần-Thái-Tôn once left his palace in the night to go to Yên-Tử mountain to ask a priest about Buddhist Enlightenment. This priest, name Phù-Vân, answered the King: "Buddha is not in the mountain but in your heart. When your consciousness is clear and you know it, then you are Buddha. If Your Majesty comes to know that consciousness in yourself, you will become Buddha; it is not necessary to look for it outside of yourself". Afterward the King returned to his throne because of his people's summons during the time of the Mongolian aggression. From that day, however, the King, while ruling over the country, never neglected to better himself. One day, when he read these lines, "It is fitting to have a non-changing consciousness", the King suddenly understood the traditional philosophy of the Vietnamese people, a philosophy which teaches the man to serve his country wholeheartedly. This is the very basis of the equilibrium of rural culture. Concerning the spirit of Vietnamese Buddhism the King concluded in these words: "I think we can find Buddha everywhere. We don't need to search for him in the North or in the South. One may born clever or dull, but thanks to Buddha's grace he can understand. One may be born stupid; with his capacity for thought, he can understand. Thus, the doctrine of Buddha uses different means to convert those who are lost and to show them the meaning of life and death. The principle responsibility of Confucius and Mencius is to teach justice, and to give good examples to future generations. Therefore, there is no difference between those wise in action and those wise in meditation. This shows that the doctrine of Buddha, in order to be propagated, needs the help of Confucianists".

Trần-Thái-Tôn, the first King of Trần dynasty (1225-1400) has thus traced the model personality for Việt-Nam by a philosophy of spirituality, showing by his own life the equilibrium of the old Vietnamese culture which tends to harmonize reason which is the spirit of Northern social culture and sentiment which is the spirit of Southern spiritual culture. That equilibrium is founded on love and positive action. He is not only the guiding light of Vietnamese Buddhism, but for scholars as well. The idea of the accord of religion and morality had great influence on the personality of Princess Huyền-Trân who sacrificed herself for the cause of the country, the union of the North and the South, and of assimilation of the two old cultures of Indo-china. This reflected in the following touching songs:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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