Symposium Introduction

Introducing the discussion to follow of Leah Kalmanson’s Cross-Cultural Existentialism is my privilege, as Leah is a dear friend and colleague. To orient my introduction, I begin with a passage from Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses: “He [John Grady Cole] felt wholly alien to the world although he loved it still. He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.”1

Though the context of the above-quoted passage is hardly philosophical, much in it lies at the heart of what Kalmanson sees as wrong with Western philosophy. Western philosophy, particularly modern Western philosophy, thirsts for the intellectual vision of a single flower called truth. Though the blood of multitudes has not been shed by practitioners of the Western philosophical tradition, Kalmanson makes it clear that Western philosophy has within it the potential for justifying such bloodshed. In commenting on the West’s tendency to distinguish between subjective reality and objective truth, she writes: “Whereas matters of personal taste are not debatable, questions of objective truth do have right and wrong answers. Ultimately, the foodie cannot fault the fast food junkie for liking what she likes, but the saint can indeed tell the sinner to go to hell” (21).2 The reason why a saint can tell a sinner to go to hell is because the saint as such believes in some kind of objective reality (the monotheistic God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, predominantly in the West). Armed with such a belief, the saint has attached herself to something independent of how she prefers or thinks things are. God’s revelation of how things are gives her the license to pronounce judgment on all those who fail to pay proper homage to her objective reality, metaphorically if not literally, to shed the blood of multitudes for her vision of God, the single flower for whom the saint strives.

Kalmanson’s argument can be stated as follows: Western dualities—mind and body, objective truth and subjective experience—set the stage for the West’s self-perpetuating sense of superiority to that which is not Western, whether it is philosophy, religion, or political life that is under discussion. We must chuck these binaries to make way for non-Western philosophies for which such binaries are not a problem. In the place of such binaries, we ought to consider versions of Asian philosophy in the Ruist, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions, which emphasize qi as interpenetrating both the inner and outer world, giving meaning to both without seeing one as better or worse than the other.

In the symposium that follows, Kalmanson is joined by colleagues who work at the intersection of Eastern and Western Philosophy: Sokthan Yeng, Tom Sparrow, Carolyn Jones Medine, and Bin Song.

Yeng sees existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s principle that existence precedes essence as providing a helpful point of departure for consideration of qi as providing methods by which one’s inner life can be related to the outer world. If there are no essences to which humans must conform, then the dualism of subject and object becomes less apparently a burning philosophical concern.

Sparrow takes up the discussion by articulating tensions that he feels in reading Kalmanson’s work. Sparrow teaches predominantly Western philosophy and so is attuned to just critiques of the enterprises contained within the traditions thereof. He is interested in thinking through the complexities involved in the relation of individual creativity to the larger world and that larger worlds impingement on the inner experience of the individual.

Carolyn Jones Medine offers a fascinating point of departure by considering Kalmanson’s work in relation to two streams with which she identifies: the Catholic notion of merit and African American Buddhism. Both these streams may very well be regarded as methods by which one can free oneself from the ever-present intrusion of the self in its less than admirable forms into daily life. Both the Catholic notion of merit and African American Buddhism provide means by which one can center oneself for the real good of others and thereby undergo the kinds of self-transformations required also by the Ruist, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions Kalmanson seeks to illumine.

Finally, Bin Song enters the discussion by way of praise and critique. Song recognizes the value of Kalmanson’s project in situating the discussions of transformative philosophical practice in a non-Western direction. A prominent critique in his discussion is of Kalmanson’s admission that she writes “as a reporter, not a practitioner” (130). Song finds this puzzling, as he believes that proper appreciation of transformative philosophy can be had only by those who engage in its recommended disciplines/practices.

The following symposium provides an intellectual feast, raising fundamental questions. What is philosophy? How should we practice it? Must Western Philosophy be finally consigned to history as a failed attempt to transform us? As a practitioner of Western philosophy myself, my hope is that there are ways in which we might be able to keep what is best in the Western tradition while recognizing its failings. The discussion to follow should hearten anyone for whom these questions are real, and Kalmanson should be thanked for providing a thoughtful way in which some of these questions can be fruitfully addressed.

  1. Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty horses (New York: Vintage, 1993), 282.

  2. Unless otherwise indicated, all parenthetical page references are to Leah Kalmanson, Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

Sokthan Yeng


Finding the Artistry of the Religious through Kim Iryop’s Cross-Cultural Philosophy

In Cross-Cultural Existentialism, Leah Kalmanson uses the question of meaning to reimagine the divides that have long puzzled Western philosophers. Understanding what is meaningful, however, does not seem possible without returning to the debates that require philosophers to make sense of the relationship between the objective and subjective. Rationalists and empiricists have taken their turn arguing for the epistemological priority of the subjective and objective realm respectively. Phenomenologists enter the fray by creating a matrix that allows for an emphasis on that which appears while also recognizing the facticity of the world. Terms such as “subject” and “object” seem out of place within this philosophy because individual beings or minds and the knowledge of the external world are no longer the focus. Understanding a more general being thrown into the world becomes the central theme that drives phenomenological analysis (17).

The abstraction of phenomenologists converge with the more accessible question sets of existential philosophers. Martin Heidegger works to understand the meaning of existence by uncovering the human capacity to grapple not only with their own being but with the nature of being in the world. The conceptual difficulties seemingly built into Heidegger’s phenomenology, however, have corollaries in Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy that inch closer to providing more digestible answers pertaining to the question of meaning. Parallels between Heidegger’s thrownness and being-towards-death and existential hallmarks abound.

In addition to facticity and authenticity, existentialists such as Sartre gives form to bad faith, anguish, despair, and forlornness. By replacing concerns that center on the atomized being with the presence of being, questions about existence emerge and appear. With existential philosophy, the analysis of being can take account again of the individual and the particular societies in which they lived. That “existentialism is a humanism,” as Sartre proclaims, allows human subjects to determine and create meaning in a world into which they were simply thrown. Existentialism is a humanism because the meaning of one’s life comes after existence and through the process of human value creation. Sartre, championing the existential worldview, argues that human freedom and the anguish with knowing that we have no God to depend upon or blame are two sides of the same coin. Although “freedom” often carries a positive value in neoliberal society, freedom also necessarily entails accountability and anxiety. Sartre believes meaning-making is only possible because there is no predetermined course set by God or indelible morality by which one must live. Such meaning-making seems, however, to invite despair and anxiety.1

In addition to challenging the subject/object divide that frustrates Western philosophers, Kalmanson’s turn to Classical Chinese and Buddhist thought reveals a different—one might dare say more positive—list of emotions to counterbalance existential dread and absurdity often found in Sartre’s work. The element of practice that connects life energy and the power of transformation gives rise to solicitude and seriousness, just to name a couple. Kalmanson analyzes traditions of the Chinese literati (Ruism), Daoism, and Buddhism to provide a more productive framework and positive set of feelings. The Classical Chinese idea of qi allows that the subjective and objective world or the individual and the social are not mutually exclusive. Likewise, Buddhist philosophy allows for the sharing of merit between people and even the dead. These economies circumvent the dualistic systems that create barriers between the subjective and objective.

Ruists, Daoists, and Buddhists ground their philosophies in the primordial force of qi, though they disagree as to whether qi sprung from a void or if it has always existed. They further diverge as to whether qi is chaotic or ordered (79). Although there are no definitive answers to these existential questions that share similarities with Western concerns about cosmology and divine order, the concept of qi transcends dualism. Kalmanson further explains, “The term qi refers to the matter-energy matrix of fluid and congealed forces . . . , which is to say, the types of things and processes that exist, how they arise, how they interact, and how they can be manipulated” (72). Not only is there no distinction between mind and matter but there is no strict barrier between the mind of the individual and society or the cosmos. Qi is a primordial and vibrant life force. As the wellspring for all existence, the dynamism of life is inherent within it. The interaction between mental and material relays, in part, the movement of this energy that reveals the connection of all life.

These philosophical traditions uphold practices such as meditation and memorization to draw forth a calm that can transform the world and the cosmos for the better and for the betterment of all living beings. Through meditation and memorization, the practitioner has the capacity to affect greater change within the society and the world. Words of the sages encapsulate lessons that reflect the workings of the cosmos. By committing to learning those words verbatim, the practitioner is also entering a space akin to meditation. Memorization and recitation require calm, not to mention a connection to thoughts transcribed by others. “Meditative practices for settling the mind do not simply enable a student to correctly interpret the meaning of a particular text; they allow the student to be in synchrony with the ‘order,’ ‘coherence,’ or ‘structure’ that a classical text transmits” (76). Classical texts continue to hold value in East Asian cultures precisely because they capture the organization of the cosmos and reveal paths for students and practitioners to align themselves with the superstructure that orders life and the multiverse inherent within East Asian philosophies. These structures (li), much like qi, do not only belong to the mental or the material realm. Instead, they traverse both. The mental practice required to memorize a text also brings greater unity and harmony between students and the cosmos. Qi and li work together, according to Kalmanson, to tap into and promote the power to transform (de). The life energy (qi) is channeled through practice (li) and contributes power to the process of transformation of the individual and beyond. “Here, power (de) refers to this transformative alignment that allows the effects of self-cultivation to reverberate up and down microcosmic and macrocosmic levels” (78).

While meditation may entail silence, it does not lead to quietude. To the contrary, silent meditation or quieting the mind are recognized paths for generating greater good. As with Sartre, such philosophers require no personal God and no singular communion but, rather, a means to engender harmony among all living beings. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche offer still different readings of the religious. One cannot, even according to Kierkegaard—a Christian existential philosopher, blame God for the choices one makes or beliefs one has. We, humans, alone must navigate the possibilities in our lives and take responsibility for our actions. Abraham, according to Kierkegaard, served as the paradigm of religious faith because he answered the singular call of God to him over the easily recognizable duties that a father has towards his son, Isaac. In Kierkegaard’s interpretation, Abraham resisted the temptations of the ethical, which the community determines. He opted, instead, for the singular over the common, knowing that his choices would not be understood by the many. Precisely because Kierkegaard believes that religious acts of faith allude to those who remain tethered to the communal and rule-oriented ethics, he questions whether the singular actions of an individual can or should transform society. Kierkegaard recognizes that it would be horrifying if Abraham became the social model of fatherhood. Would we not be compelled to stop fathers who want to make an offering of their sons to God? Through the lens of Kantian ethics, Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac seems like the opposite of care for the other that can be universalized. His actions seem to be more akin to that of a madman, lacking all reason, than that of a religious leader. Yet the Bible compels Christians to revere Abraham. It is seemingly a further absurdity compounded by Kierkegaard’s existential narrative of Abraham binding Isaac and riding up the mountain in silence. What, after all, could Abraham say to Isaac or to anyone to make them understand?2 Nietzsche, on the other hand, is famously critical of religious types because they are sheep that cannot break with herd mentality. Most are unable to create values for themselves precisely because they would prefer to live according to the slave morality of the Christian religion.3

Kalmanson’s cross-cultural analysis of Ruism, Daoism, and Buddhism provides a model that has so far been lacking in existential thought: the religious woman who can create values to transform society for the better. Kalmanson fills in this gap by highlighting the life of Kim Iryop. Although she was a feminist activist and author before becoming a Buddhist nun, she did not turn her back on society or give up on social change. Dedicating her life to the practice of meditation was, rather, an extension of her social activism. Meditation, she believed, had the power to enact change within society by transferring the positive thoughts and deeds to others. More to the point, her philosophy is the only one that addresses existential concerns while also circumventing the subject-object problem. Kalmanson argues that this view of meditation would not be possible without a syncretism of Ruist, Daoist, and Buddhist thought. In other words, Iryop was a trailblazer in thinking cross-cultural existentialism.

Thanks to Iryop’s idiosyncratic and imaginative interpretations of meditation for instance, Kalmanson suggests that Iryop’s philosophy taps into the artist-creator motif that runs through Nietzsche’s philosophy and East Asian texts that connect the sage and the artist (6, 65, 122). Although Kalmanson does not expressly mention the role of the artist in Nietzsche’s philosophy, she links his work on value-creation to support the view of Iryop as an existential thinker. Perhaps Kalmanson forgoes the “artist” persona for value-creator because Nietzsche ties the artist, albeit in a positive manner, to falsity. The artist—unlike the priest, scientist, or philosopher—does not gain power and influence by claiming to be the exclusive progenitor of the truth.

Although artists and creativity are linked in Nietzsche’s thought, there are reasons for Kalmanson to focus on value creation rather than the figure of the artist. For him, the artist stands in contrast to the religious person. Nietzsche presents the artist as one who can develop meaning and value in something other than truth. Because Nietzsche believes that artists have the audacity to value falsity and that which is not real, there is a tendency to reinforce a dichotomy between truth and falsity.4 Precisely because the split between subjective and objective realms serves as a preoccupation for Western philosophers, they may view the concept of qi—which blurs the boundaries between subject and object—as superstition, fanciful thinking, or simply false.

Because Westerners may be tempted to dismiss Iryop’s philosophy, which allows for the interconnection between subjective/objective and mental/material realms, as antithetical to what is real and true, there is a danger in emphasizing the artistic in Nietzsche when developing Iryop’s profile. An in-depth analysis of Iryop as an exemplar of the sage-artist, however, would allow for a fruitful contrast of Kim Iryop to the readings of the religious in Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Iryop can push Western existentialists to reconsider the power of a religious woman to create values through artistry and bring about social change.

  1. Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism, trans. Carol Macomber et al. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).

  2. Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, trans. Alastair Hannay (New York: Penguin Classics, 1986).

  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 92.

  4. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 71.

  • Leah Kalmanson

    Leah Kalmanson


    Response to Yeng

    Ever since reading Sokthan Yeng’s insightful reflections, I have been turning over and over in my mind her evocative phrase “the power of a religious woman.” This phrase undercuts both the hegemony of patriarchal structures that mark contemporary religions today as well as the chauvinism of the disenchanted worldview that relegates religion to the superstitious past. As such, Yeng’s phrase conjures for me an image of power that is at once steeped in tradition, yet subversive; at once a voice of authority, yet a voice on the margins.

    Yeng calls the Buddhist nun Kim Iryŏp a “trailblazer of cross-cultural existentialism,” and I could not agree more. Kim’s life and work, her experiences and sensibilities, are intimately cross-cultural, born not only of the syncretism that generally marks traditions such as Buddhism (from India) and Ruism (from China) as these spread though East Asia historically but also of the rapid spread of the Euro-American Protestant tradition in the Korea of Kim’s childhood.

    I am reminded here of Jennifer Leath’s Womanist reading of Pure Land Buddhist philosophy and Christian liberational themes in her 2012 article “Canada and Pure Land, a New Field and Buddha-Land: Womanists and Buddhists Reading Together.” She begins by citing Alice Walker’s declaration that a Womanist is “traditionally capable, as in: ‘Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.’ Reply: ‘It wouldn’t be the first time.’”1 Leath comments: “This is important because it underscores the three-dimensional nature of Womanism: (1) it is rooted in convictions (i.e., faith), not least of which is a commitment to liberation; (2) it is confirmed through praxis (i.e., walking to Canada—and taking others); and (3) it is something about which one may write (i.e., scholarship).”2 She goes on to describe how both Womanist and Pure Land thought converge on the importance of “orthopraxy” that “revives traditional models of collective scholarship, honoring the gifts of community orientation characteristic of both Womanism and Buddhism. Such methodology deeply affects the culture of scholarship, . . . engendering an ethic of sharing and mutual edification.”3 For both Womanism and Pure Land philosophy, “liberation is an essentially dynamic objective”4 of engaged scholarship geared toward the enactment of a better world.

    I have been so inspired by Leath’s reminder to us that philosophy may be liberatory while still constituting an important site of scholarship. I am cognizant here of Hegel’s claim that non-Western traditions give us “religious thinking” but not philosophy5—indeed, it is still common in academic philosophy today to hear the assertion that Asian traditions are not adequately philosophical because they lack argumentation.6 As a result, these traditions are too often taken as the objects of scholarly inquiry but are not seen as conducting their own scholarship, or as offering their own scholarly methodologies that others might consider adopting. In contrast, Leath takes up Buddhist scholarly methodologies as principles of orthopraxy capable of addressing suffering, the causes of suffering, and the path to liberation from suffering for the sake of all sentient beings.

    Nonetheless, even while working on this response, I notice that I veer toward scholarship as my default mode of liberatory enactment and existential meaning-making. And, yes, there are reasons to reclaim the site of scholarship as one source of the “power of a religious woman,” for all the reasons stated above. Yet Yeng has urged me to consider the mode of aesthetics and artistic creation (as have Sparrow and Jones Medine in their own replies). Just as Yeng’s evocation of the “religious woman” raises images in my mind, so does her use of the phrase the “sage-artist.”

    Indeed, Kim’s term for the creative force of Buddhist orthopraxy—saengmyŏng or “life energy”—is part of a cluster of concepts coming to prominence in Korea in the 1920s as literary and aesthetic categories. As Jae-Yon Lee discusses, the notion of the “creative genius” of artists became especially popular, as did the idea that artists can invigorate their artworks through the power of their own vitality. Yet, tellingly, some denied this capacity to women: “[The author] Kim Tongin contested that, historically, such creative minds were only granted to men who built up the world of convenience by exploiting inconvenient nature. A woman, on the other hand, had the power of imitation and the courage to blindly pursue her goals. Kim [Tongin] lamented that such power also misguided women into believing in the ideology of gender equality and claiming their right to vote. He acerbically criticized this claim because, he argued, women possess neither spirit nor creative power.”7

    Of course, such views are not unique, and the place of women in the artworld to this day remains fraught. Yeng’s own recent book Buddhist Feminism: Transforming Anger Against Patriarchy (2020) helps shed light on the appeal of Buddhist thought and practice for a religious woman, scholar, and sage-artist such as Kim Iryŏp. As Yeng discusses, in Buddhist discourse, anger is one of the so-called three poisons, and yet in many stories anger appears as an appropriate emotional response to the constitutively unfair condition of existence—i.e., pervasive and senseless suffering. The power and energy of anger can be transformed in the crucible of the mind to catalyze the deeper emotion and driving force of Buddhist activism—compassion. I think now of the Yeng’s sage-artist as having a kind of “existential vigilance”—a hypervigilant sensitivity to suffering, which is the motivational energy driving artistic and creative action. Yeng’s reflections help me connect this sort of deep sensitivity to the root meaning of aesthetics, prompting me to consider the ways in which systemic change—of the sort needed to address systemic phenomena such as patriarchy—draws on this level of aesthetic attunement.

    1. Leath, “Canada and Pure Land, a New Field and Buddha-Land: Womanists and Buddhists Reading Together,” Buddhist-Christian Studies 32 (2012): 57–65, 57.

    2. Leath, “Canada and Pure Land,” 57–58.

    3. Leath, “Canada and Pure Land,” 61–62.

    4. Leath, “Canada and Pure Land,” 61.

    5. G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. E. S. Haldane (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1892), 1:117.

    6. Consider the vitriolic online discussions that appeared in the wake of Jay L. Garfield’s and Bryan W. Van Norden’s op-ed “If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is,” New York Times, May 11, 2016,; as well as the debates that ensued on various philosophy blogs, such as the discussions at the Daily Nous, and

    7. Jae Yon Lee, “Authors as Creators of Art: The Collaborative Shaping of Literary Writers in Ch’angjo,” Journal of Korean Studies 20.1 (2015): 77–112, 89.

Tom Sparrow


On the Promise of Transformation in Kalmanson’s Speculative Existentialism

When I picked up Leah Kalmanson’s Cross-Cultural Existentialism (CCE), I found in it many resources that would benefit my teaching as well as my research and writing. As someone who teaches philosophies of existence and existentialism, her book affords me the opportunity to broaden and deepen my approach to these subjects, which admittedly tilts heavily toward the West. As someone who has written about contemporary speculative philosophy and has tried to think about human agency in non-dualist terms, her book offers a wealth of concepts and arguments that I can readily mobilize, adopt or adapt, in my own attempts to articulate the internal relation between embodied subjects and the so-called “external” environment. Kalmanson has made all of this quite easy by presenting her material in remarkably clear, reader-friendly prose that an amateur student of East Asian philosophy like myself can digest with little trouble at all.

While searching out specific points of interest in CCE for the purpose of this symposium, I found myself pulled in two directions. On the one hand, since I was coming off a semester teaching existentialism and phenomenology, I was especially attuned to the book’s criticism of these two philosophies for their deficiency in the way of practice or “spiritual exercise,” to use Pierre Hadot’s term (CCE, 2). Moreover, I was preparing to teach ancient Greek philosophy, so I was thinking quite intensively about philosophy as a way of life (and reading Hadot), as transformative practice and not just as an intellectual endeavor. Since I think about some ancient Greek philosophy, especially Socrates and the Hellenistic schools, as antecedents to twentieth-century Western existentialism, I found myself eminently receptive to Kalmanson’s assertion that “effective existential philosophy must be a practice as much as it is a theory” (1).

Furthermore, as someone who has written about recent developments in speculative philosophy, I found my interest piqued by Kalmanson’s promise to develop a “speculative existentialism” that would take a cue from recent developments—speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, new materialism—but would build itself from a comparative perspective that utilizes both Western and East Asian resources. In my view, she is absolutely right to develop work that “pushes back against the resistance to metaphysics characteristic of contemporary phenomenology and existentialism” (5). In other words, I am delighted to discover a new direction in speculative philosophy, and I was doubly enthusiastic because this new direction seemed to recommend so much to my own thinking about the relation between metaphysical speculation and the self. There is nothing gratuitous in this brand of speculation; indeed, it is grounded and careful, as practically-oriented as it is intellectually provocative.

My scholarly and pedagogical attractions to CCE find a common cause in one of the book’s specific aims: to show that “East Asian discourses help us redefine ‘speculation’ itself not as the interior ruminations of a subject looking out on the world but rather as a dynamic activity that transforms both selves and their environments” (5; italics in original). It is here, in the idea that speculation could be transformative, even spiritually transformative, and that this transformation must be relational, that I focused my reflection. Personally, my most impactful encounter with this idea came from reading two Western philosophers: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas. Kalmanson’s book promised me an expanded repertoire of conceptual and practical tools for thinking the dynamic relationship between the subject and its environment, and to do so beyond the bounds of two intractable “restricted” Western-philosophical economies: subject-object dualism and the idealism-realism debate.

Kalmanson deploys Bataille’s opposition of general and restricted economies in her compelling analysis of karmic merit and karmic transformation (CCE, ch. 2). A restricted economy places an artificial limit on our general existential situation by directing thought and action toward specific ends that dictate the operations and values available to us. In short, it “budgets” and “instrumentalizes” human existence. Consequently, it constrains human existence, but at the same time entails its inevitable self-destruction under the excessive weight of existence as such (42–44). Examining the karmic system against this theoretical backdrop, Kalmanson performs efficient critical work that unsettles the restricted Western understanding of causality in order to demonstrate that “karmic causality is rarely, if ever, a matter of a single agent, a single action, and a single result” (46). She performs the same kind of comparative critical work in her analyses of qi, ritual, and other concepts.

It seems to me that the comparative form of her criticism is not only useful for getting us beyond the restrictions placed on these concepts by restricted Western philosophical and scientific economies, but that she points the way to a more generalized deconstruction, as it were, of the very framework of Western philosophy. If Western philosophy often presents the subject-object and realist-idealist dualities as if they were generalized, which is to say universal, forms of thought, then demonstrating that these forms of thought are in fact restricted philosophical economies is necessary work. I present this proposition not as a comparative philosopher, for whom the point is probably obvious, but as someone who is attempting to be sensitive to the insights provoked in him by Kalmanson’s work, and to give expression to those insights in an effort to take stock of how her work is transforming him.

Considering the prospect that reading and scholarly study, not to mention metaphysical speculation, could induce a form of “spiritual” transformation, the chapter on rituals (CCE, ch. 4) is especially instructive. Here Kalmanson deploys a “qi-based existential terminology” (116), already introduced in previous chapters, to unpack what I think she would call her processual (or process-oriented) approach to existential transformation and meaning production. If I understand correctly, Kalmanson draws upon Ruist, Buddhist, and Daoist traditions to offer a “performative” (101) account of ritual, one that supports the “strong claim that actions constitute entities, or that the self ‘is,’ in concrete terms, what it ‘does’” (102). If this is the case, then reading, meditation, study, hiking, and speculation are all equally capable of transforming the subjects who perform them. All of these practices could be counted among Hadot’s “spiritual exercises,” and could therefore be made part of the existential-philosophical way of life. I, for one, would love to read more of what Kalmanson has to say when she writes: “I am interested in contextualizing Nietzsche’s hiking practice as a part of a larger regimen. This is to say, I am interested in thinking through concrete exercises that better enact the values and non-dualist commitments of existentialism and thereby rethinking how we understand the term ‘practice’ in a philosophical context” (99).

I should confess that at this point in my reflection I worry that I may be conflating some of the traditions and distinctions that Kalmanson works so hard to differentiate. For instance, the distinction between ritual and practice. If I am, this is no fault of the author, whose book is an example of clarity and organization. Kalmanson clearly knows her audience and how to communicate to them. Any conflation made here is my responsibility. I am trying to balance my willingness to be transformed by Cross-Cultural Existentialism with my desire to put the text to work for my own idiosyncratic philosophical project.

In my book The End of Phenomenology, which Kalmanson references (38), I try to argue that the existential phenomenology of Heidegger, Sartre, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and the like never gets us beyond the restricted economy of realism v. idealism, and that phenomenologists would rather argue that phenomenology, when it is forced to choose sides, is closer to realism than idealism.1 I, furthermore, make the case that, if it is realism that we want, then we are better off with speculative realism than we are with phenomenology. In response, Kalmanson proposes a form of speculation that leaves the idealist-realist duality behind and promises to deliver an existential philosophy that offers “lessons in the practice of making meaning” (39). Unlike her, I could not leave the idealist-realist duality behind in my comparison of existential phenomenology and speculative realism, and I offered no practical lessons.

In Plastic Bodies, which appeared the year after The End of Phenomenology, I try to develop an understanding of embodied subjectivity that is transactional and dynamic, with a view to the practical implications of this perspective.2 It has traces of processual thinking, but my argument is effectively realist in its framework. I draw constructively upon a number of influences, including phenomenology, speculative realism, object-oriented philosophy, new realism, Deweyan pragmatism, and Spinoza’s metaphysics. Which is to say, I utilize some of the same resources cited by Kalmanson in CCE in my attempt to think against the restricted economy of idealism-realism, but I do not do so from a comparative perspective and I end up defending realism against idealism. I also do not offer concrete practices for existential transformation, although I endorse a kind of “technology of the self” informed by Foucault, Dewey, and Spinoza as the practical outcome of my theoretical investigations. All of this is to say that, like Kalmanson, I would like to conceive of a non-dualist metaphysics of subjectivity that foregrounds the co-constitutive, dynamic relation between the self and its environment. She points the way out of some of the impasses I have met in my efforts so far.

In particular, I am interested in the process of individuation from an aesthetic standpoint, or what I call “aesthetic identity.” I introduce and explore this concept to some extent in Plastic Bodies and some subsequent writings. In the latter I have begun to incorporate some insights from Japanese aesthetics, primarily as presented in the writings of Yuriko Saito. Like Saito’s work offers reflections, some of them speculative, on the meaning of non-Western practices/rituals like the tea ceremony and gardening that I have found useful for thinking through the transformative nature of these aesthetic endeavors and others.3 Kalmanson’s analyses of the karmic economy and the qi matrix likewise indicate paths that promise to enrich my attempt to think of aesthetic experience in an expanded sense which is too often neglected by Western philosophical frameworks that dismiss speculative philosophy, including speculative aesthetics, as frivolous or overly vague.

Accordingly, the section on sincerity (cheng) and authenticity in the fourth chapter of CCE struck a particularly resonant chord for me as I continue to think about aesthetic individuation and aesthetic identity. Kalmanson attempts to make sense of the controversial decision by philosophers Roger Ames and David Hall to translate cheng as “creativity” instead of “sincerity” or “integrity.” What Kalmanson shows is that Ames and Hall’s rationale induces us to consider that “a qi-based philosophy . . . gives us a world of ‘ontological parity’ where creativity is always ‘transactional and multidimensional,’ and therefore self-cultivation can be seen as a co-creative activity involving self, societies, and whole environments” (166). In this discussion of cheng I find a fascinating attempt to think about subjectivity and creativity in terms of process, multiplicity, and transformation rather than something like genius, originality, and talent. I find not only a provocative link between creativity and sincerity, but the suggestion that creativity is a dynamic relationship between the creator and their creation, the maker and the made. There is much truth here.

Kalmanson’s speculative project promises much as I try to make sense of the dynamic nature of aesthetic identity. It is clear to me that I will have to think more seriously and determinedly about the meaning of cheng and the extent to which it is “the enactment—the making real or making true—of new order in the world” (119) and what this means from the aesthetic standpoint. If it is true that “the psychic energies of human thoughts and emotions can, at times, extend beyond the borders of the body” (118), then it seems eminently possible to argue that, not only is the aesthetic environment the product of human creativity, but that the aesthetic environment is capable of shaping our sensory experience such that the aesthetic environment must be regarded as constitutive of who we are. That, at any rate, is my own scholarly concern. Kalmanson has ensured that this concern will be enriched and strengthened through a comparative perspective. Now I just need to figure out for myself the concrete steps necessary to enact the scholarly transformation I must undergo to carry out my research and teaching in the richest possible way. Fortunately, Kalmanson has offered a number of useful lessons.

  1. Tom Sparrow, The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014).

  2. Tom Sparrow, Plastic Bodies: Rebuilding Sensation After Phenomenology (London: Open Humanities, 2015).

  3. See, for example, Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

  • Leah Kalmanson

    Leah Kalmanson


    Response to Sparrow

    Tom Sparrow’s work in phenomenology has so deeply influenced my own, especially my engagement with Levinas and my understanding of the ongoing critical trends in recent speculative philosophies. I am grateful for this opportunity to pick back up the thread of Sparrow’s ideas as these intersect not only with my own work but with other themes in this symposium.

    Sparrow is correct to point out the undercurrent of process philosophy in my work on existentialism. One of my early inspirations, when first embarking on this project, was the thought experiment presented in Steven Shaviro’s Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009): What if Whitehead and not Heidegger had been the more influential voice in twentieth-century continental thought? One outcome, at least, would be a mainline route to Deleuze and perhaps to those questions and themes we now associate with speculative realism, new materialism, object-oriented ontology, and so forth.

    I catch another glimpse of this alternate reality via Jason Wirth’s recent engagement with Deleuze in the 2020 Nietzsche and Other Buddhas: Philosophy after Comparative Philosophy. Wirth notes that Deleuze and Guattari make scattered references to East Asian source material in various writings. They describe dao (道) as a “field of immanence” in A Thousand Plateaus, and they cite the Kamakura-period Zen master Dōgen in a footnote to their own discussion of the “plane of immanence” in What Is Philosophy?1

    But this seeming enthusiasm for East Asian sources must be balanced against other, more overtly Eurocentric trajectories texts such as What Is Philosophy? There, philosophy concerns the production of concepts, especially as these relate back to a pre-philosophical “plane of immanence”—the non-thought source of thought. Deleuze and Guattari approach the question of this uniquely philosophical concept-production via their meditations on the Greeks and the supposed Greek origins of philosophy, though their exact position is complicated. On the one hand, as they claim repeatedly, philosophy is “something Greek”; on the other, they qualify, it was “brought by immigrants.”2 On the one hand, they criticize Hegel and Heidegger for seeking a “necessary principle” that explains the Greekness of philosophy, and they accordingly reject Hegel’s hierarchical account of the relation between the Greeks and the “Orient.”3 On the other, they gently push back against François Jullien’s suggestion that Chinese philosophical thought accomplishes an “absolutization of immanence.”4 That is almost philosophical, they say, but not quite: “Philosophy,” they insist, “appeals to a completely different immanence of the absolute.”5

    One wishes for an imaginary Deleuze, who not only read Whitehead, but who followed Whitehead’s path to Dewey and Dewey’s path to China and who, therefore, was more intimately involved in the existing literature on process philosophy and East Asian thought. This is, in some sense, where Wirth’s book steps in. He tracks down the source of Deleuze’s most overt reference to Dōgen in a discussion of the director Ozu Yasujirō in Cinema 2: The Time Image. As it turns out, Deleuze quotes not a passage from Dōgen but the 1980 French translation of the title of his main work Shōbōgenzō (正法眼蔵), rendered unintelligibly in the English version of Cinema 2 as “the visual reserve of events in their appropriateness” (in a mis-numbered footnote, at that, as Wirth finds).6 In Wirth’s analysis, it seems that Deleuze was likely interested in the comments of the translators of Shōbōgenzō, who explain their choice to render dharma or shō (正) as les événements by describing it as a “synchronic plane” distinct from any Heideggerian sense of Ereignis in terms of “being or presence.”7

    In Wirth’s move to pursue the space this footnote opens up, Deleuze becomes an unwitting reader of Dōgen, and the plane of immanence gains a new non-Greek origin. The subversive power of this alternate reality lies not in showing us that the dharma was all along the origin of the plane of immanence or that Deleuze was all along a Buddhist. But it does give us a new Deleuze—one not only on the mainline route from Whitehead in an alternate present that has de-centered Heidegger, but one who never bought into the myth of philosophy’s Greek origins in the first place.

    I suppose in my own mind I situate Sparrow and his work squarely within this alternate world, alongside his satisfyingly “heretical” Levinas, who appears there as a speculative metaphysician and theorist of embodiment. In Sparrow’s Plastic Bodies: Rebuilding Sensation after Phenomenology (2014), he returns to a pre-Aristotelian notion of aisthesis that retains “odd idea that two inanimate bodies can exchange sensations.”8 This understanding of sensation certainly maps well onto the qi-based worldview that I explore in my book, but Sparrow’s parting reflections on freedom and ethics in Plastic Bodies remind me that the existential practices I seek may demand from me more than I expect. I think here of Jain philosophy and the excruciating attention to detail that guides Jain existential awareness regarding the pervasiveness of sensitive entities in the world around us: Beyond simple vegetarianism, strict Jains do not eat any plants that cannot survive the harvesting (e.g., root vegetables); they tread lightly when they walk, not only to avoid insects but to spare microbes in the soil from their weight; they do not make sudden movements or thrash their arms about, not only to leave uninjured the microscopic creatures in the air but avoid disturbing those fleeting air-bodied entities that live out their brief existences as breezes and whirlwinds. In the Jaina worldview, sensations are indeed exchanged constantly between seemingly inanimate phenomena, and hence the possibilities for pain are overwhelmingly multiplied. Such a world demands our constant vigilance.

    Sparrow and his heretical Levinas give us precisely the sort of ethical vision that takes responsibility and freedom beyond the human—way beyond the human—and hence takes existential meaning-making into an aesthetic ecology that is teeming with sensations. As Yeng mentions, too, in this symposium, the figure of the artist comes into sharper focus within this ecology—I follow this line of thought to the response of Jones Medine, who upholds the writing habits of the artist Toni Morrison as transformative ritual practices. This returns me to the idea of “existential vigilance” that I mention in my response to Yeng—like the thousand-armed and thousand-eyed bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, the artist cultivates the supernormal powers of attention needed to respond to our hypersensitized world.

    1. Quoted in Jason Wirth, Nietzsche and Other Buddhas: Philosophy after Comparative Philosophy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019), 92.

    2. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 93.

    3. Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 94.

    4. Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 92.

    5. Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 92.

    6. Quoted in Wirth, Nietzsche and Other Buddhas, 95.

    7. Quoted in Wirth, Nietzsche and Other Buddhas, 95.

    8. Tom Sparrow, Plastic Bodies: Rebuilding Sensation after Phenomenology (London: Open Humanities, 2014), 216.

Carolyn Jones Medine


Merit and Social Justice in Religious Practice

Leah Kalmanson’s Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought brings contemporary Western philosophy into conversation with Chinese religions, arguing that religious practice offers a break from the discontents of the Western self, opening a possibility of transformation. Here, I will suggest how two practices that I study, African American Buddhism and the Catholic idea of merit, represent the kind of break from the tragic cycle that Kalmanson describes.

Kalmanson directly addresses the tragic cycle in which the Modernist (roughly 1890–1950) self, in which the subject is suspended at an exhausting, “uncrossable border” at which nothingness is “conflated . . . with the limit of a certain type of phenomenological interiority.” There, “death becomes a stand-in for all manner of trans-egoic experiences” (133–34).

The repetition of extreme experiences and an eternal return into the “old skin again and again” (134) characterize this self, Nietzsche’s “objective man” who is a “tool” and a mirror,1 submitting in a banal madness. In Nietzsche, et. al., as Ihab Hassan argues, we find the moment at which philosophy aims at reconstituting the radical subject that represents “the community of the disappointed,”2 that faces a revulsion against the Western self3 that was constituted by reason that inaugurated colonialism, scientific experimentation, and categorization to meet progress’s ends. This violence reinforced division: what Du Bois called “the color line.”4 We might add the gender, the immigrant, the species, and the political lines as well.

Slavoj Žižek’s reading of the tension between Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault over Descartes’ cogito helps illuminate this modern self. While Foucault excluded madness from the domain of reason, Derrida relates the cogito to its “shadowy double, the pharmakon, which is madness.”5 Therefore, “Whether I am mad or not, Cogito, sum . . .” Žižek, using this, sees Hegel as the moment at which philosophy goes “‘mad,’ explodes in a ‘crazy’ pretense to ‘Absolute Knowledge.’”6 If, as Derrida suggests, absolute knowledge is not “outside the text” of Enlightenment, there may be a “dark core of madness at the heart of the cogito.” This madness leads to extremity7 as a way of “fixing” the modern self—but with no “fingers and handles.”8 This madness is the “creativity” of the West that those colonized and enslaved “underwent” as they were twice-created9—the madness that drives what bell hooks calls patriarchal white supremacist capitalist culture10 and rationalizes atrocities.

In light of this, Kalmanson asks if religious practice may address the “terror of history” and its discontent.11 Religious practices, like offering merit, align us with an energy that can transform our minds, lives, and worlds. Change, therefore, can be made, as Kalmanson suggests: “the person of perfect cheng . . . is a co-creator of worlds” (120). This echoes what Herbert Fingarette called the “magical” element of Ruism: that social gestures are not empty, but potentially aligned with the Dao, as the human being makes herself a “Holy Vessel,” to be filled with Dao in “participation with others in ceremony,” in rites (li) that distinguish what is human and communal.”12 I will say more about the emphasis on making in my remarks. Kalmanson led me to think through efficacious action in two areas: African American Buddhism in its alignment with Civil Rights and commitment to social justice and Catholic thought on merit.

African American Buddhism

African American Buddhists practice Buddhism to heal the Black self, certainly, but also as a skillful means to making social justice. Toni Morrison mused on the task of making in an interview about Beloved:

For purposes of exorcism . . . celebratory rites of passage . . . things must be made, some fixing ceremony . . . some memorial . . . some thing, some altar . . . somewhere . . .13

Morrison suggests, like Kim Iryŏp, that it us up to us to erect some site, generate some ritual, make some transforming “thing.” For Morrison, the thing is the novel and writing is the practice, highlighting, as we will, the importance of reading. African American Buddhists utilize and adapt Buddhist practices as “things” to address the dukkha, generated in the Middle Passage, ongoing in African American life—dukkha, as Lama Rod Owens writes, still “triggers disembodiment,” the pathological “thing-making” of the slave system in which diaspora Africans fulfilled the intentions of a racist and capitalist imagination.14

Black Buddhist both engage in traditional practices and make new ones that turn to the fractured self in ways other than white, Western ones. These practices generate, as Michelle Clinton puts it, the strength to hold the pain of racism as one sits and to participate in “simple humanness while holding the harsh gaze of history.”15 The goal is to turn inward and, then, outward to address white supremacy and violence—like the murder of George Floyd. For Alice Walker, for example, such practices are “technologies of the self” that not only heal one in the present moment, but also heal our ancestors and connect us to their wisdom.16 We see this in her first dharma talk, in which she invites the participants to meditate collectively to send healing across time and space to all those involved in the murder of a young black man, George Slaughter—from his white father to the horse he was riding—to heal the personal and collective trauma and to reconfigure the past, to set conditions to live in the future otherwise.17


Merit opens the possibility to live otherwise, as well. It operates in Catholic culture as an alternative “karmic economy” (48ff.). One, in a state of grace,18 acquires merit, “a claim to supernatural reward” from God, through charity,19 not as a debt payment, but as a “loving cooperation between God and the soul.”20 A Christian freely doing a morally good act,”21 may be rewarded with merit’s sanctifying grace. This means that human beings may act as “active, meritorious collaborators in the work of redemption”: “We are not just along for the ride.”22

Merit is the “Treasury of the Church,” including Jesus’s merit23 and that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints (CCC, 1476–77). Merit, circulating in the Divine Economy, may be applied, offered, to others in the church, living and dead: forming a powerful “interpersonal and transgenerational ‘spiritual communion’” (141).[footnotefootnote] Merit flows from love, from “‘a heart which sees’” and acts,24 is treated—for example, in offering it for the souls in Purgatory25—“just as if the [souls] had themselves performed the work.”26 Catholics, in addition, “offer up” personal suffering as energy in the work of redemption, uniting us with Christ’s life and passion (CCC, 1505).

Redemptive suffering was a key part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s thought, as he understood the suffering one underwent in nonviolent resistance almost as a form of merit, “offered up” to heal American racist society27 through generating energy28 that is healing, redemptive, and transformative.29

Some Concluding Thoughts

King links Black Buddhist thought and, for me, merit to Kalmanson’s thesis. Charles Johnson puts King’s work in relation to Buddhism, arguing that the “black experience in America, like the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, begins in suffering” and that the Beloved Community, which was King’s goal is a “sangha by another name.”30 I see the merit of non-violent resistance, the suffering of the practitioner, as being offered to bring violent actors to consciousness, into community. Non-violence is wu-wei, a non-doing that does! King also practiced prayer as a spirituality “consistent with his understanding of the well-ordered, active, productive, and complete life.”31 He is a strong example of a “speculative existentialism” that “takes seriously the power of self-cultivation, sustained by daily commitment [that can] enact existential transformation” (130), aligning “life energy” (136), the capacities of the mind, with the tendencies of things in the world” (114). This can facilitate entry into the “ongoing structural tendencies in the matter-energy matrix of existence itself” (142).

King, along with Black Buddhists and practicing Catholics, exemplify Kalmanson’s argument that practitioners can engage energy in ways that make “some thing” that may undo hegemonic power. Kalmanson and I agree, I think, that, as I have suggested, “practices . . . constitute [a] counterforce to . . . violence and destruction. It is the praying, meditating, kneeling and bowing, fasting, chanting, walking, dancing people who generate enough healing power to keep us from tearing this world apart.”32

Reading also is a practice that, directing attention, teaches us to embrace complexity, and, perhaps, breaks the tragic cycle in which the Modern autonomous “self” is trapped, in which objective judgment is really only someone [else’s] subjective will.33 Reading, Kalmanson and I agree, is revolutionary, creating an intimacy with the self that makes intimacy with others possible.34 Reading may be the first step out of “life force” that leads to atrocities,35 the monstrous repetition in the eternal return to transformative energy, to practitioner’s access life forces that that binds us (religio), generating community and creating more just and free alignments with reality.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil VI. Aphorism #207,

  2. Roberto Maria Dianotto, “The Excremental Sublime: The Postmodern Literature of Blockage and Release,” Postmodern Culture 3.3 (May 1993),

  3. Ihab Hassan, The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1987), 5.

  4. W. E. B. Du Bois, “Forethought,” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Dover, 2014), v.

  5. Slavoj Žižek, “Cogito in the History of Madness,” No Subject: An Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis,

  6. Žižek, “Cogito in the History of Madness.”

  7. For a quick reference, see Roger Kimball, “The Perversions of M. Foucault,” New Criterion 39.10 (June 2021): See also Carolyn J. Dean, The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992), 170–200.

  8. Nietzsche, Beyond.

  9. Charles H. Long, “Silence and Signification,” in Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion (Aurora, CO: Davies), 65.

  10. Bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism (New York: Holt, 1995), 18.

  11. Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 161.

  12. Herbert Fignarette, Confucius: The Secular as Sacred (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1972), 71, 77.

  13. Toni Morrison: Profile of a Writer, documentary, 52 mins. (Homevision, 2000).

  14. Lama Rod Owens, “The Dharma of Trauma: Blackness, Buddhism, and Transhistorical Trauma Narrated through Three Ayahuasca Ceremonies,” in Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl Giles, Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom (Boulder: Shambhala, 2001), 55.

  15. Michelle Clinton, “Breaking Through History: A Dark Reflection on Zen,” Turning Wheel  (Summer 2003), 34-36.

  16. Carolyn M. Jones Medine, “Practice in Buddhist-Womanist Thought,” Buddhist-Christian Studies 36 (2016): 17–18.

  17. Alice Walker, “This Was Not an Area of Large Plantations,” in We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness (New York: New Press), 88–110.

  18. New Advent, s.v. “Merit,” Sanctifying grace is that grace infused into the soul by God. It is, Fr. Hardon writes, a “real quality that becomes part of the soul’s substance,” and which, thereby, “makes holy those who possess the gift by giving them a participation in divine life” (Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, 488).

  19. John A. Hardon, SJ, “Merit,” in Modern Catholic Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1980), 348. See also Fr. John Hardon, “Supernatural Merit,” in History and Theology of Grace,

  20. Rev. Brain Mullady, OP, “Merit,” in “Faith Seeking Understanding: Nature and Grace,” International Catholic University,

  21. Hardon, “Merit,” 348. The act must be inspired by grace and from a “supernatural motive.”

  22. “‘Offering It Up’—Redemptive Suffering: Part 1, Mystery of Merit,”, May 5, 2014,

  23. New Advent, s.v. “Merit.”

  24. Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est. 31.a.

  25. New Advent, s.v. “Merit.”

  26. New Advent, s.v. “Merit.”

  27. Martin Luther King Jr., “Suffering and Faith,” King Papers, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, April 17, 1960, King wrote: “My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

  28. Lewis Baldwin, “The Attuning of the Spirit: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Circle of Prayer,” in Revives My Soul Again: The Spirituality of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Lewis V. Baldwin and Victor Anderson (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2018), 163, 166–67.

  29. For a summary of “Principles of Nonviolence,” see “The King Philosophy—Nonviolence 365,” King Center,; and “Glossary of Nonviolence,” King Center,

  30. Quoted in Yetunde and Giles, Black and Buddhist, xviii, from Charles Johnson, “A Sangha by Another Name,” Tricycle (Winter 1999),

  31. Baldwin, “Attuning of the Spirit,” 136.

  32. Jones Medine, “Practice in Buddhist-Womanist Thought,” 25.

  33. See Brad J. Kallenberg, “The Master Argument of MacIntyre’s After Virtue,” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, ed. Nancey Murphy et al. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 21–50. Kallenberg raises MacIntyre’s question of whether we go with Nietzsche and the Ubermensch, who becomes, in modernity, the strong man, like Hitler entering a moral vacuum, or Aristotle and the articulation of a moral order. He makes his comment about the failure of the Enlightenment project in this context.

  34. Deborah E. McDowell, “‘The Self and the Other’: Reading Toni Morrison’s Sula and the Black Female Text,” in Critical Essays on Toni Morrison, ed. Nellie Y. McKay (Boston: Hall, 1988), 85.

  35. See, e.g., Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, “The Devil in the Details: ‘Life Force Atrocities’ and the Family in Times of Conflict,” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal 5.1 (2010): 1–19. Joeden-Forgey sees the “genocidal rituals” of violence from the Nazis to Darfur to Rwanda to Bosnia. She argues that this violence is ritual that undoes the life force of a group, constructs social reality and undercuts cosmology (4), creating an “anti-cosmos” (5).

  • Leah Kalmanson

    Leah Kalmanson


    Response to Jones Medine

    I first heard Carolyn Jones Medine speak at a panel on Womanist–Buddhist dialogue at the 2011 meeting of the American Academy of Religion. The session featured work that had been ongoing for several years via reading groups held at University of Georgia, Texas Christian University, and Harvard Divinity School. Simply attending and listening at this AAR panel was a definitive event in my professional life that shaped the trajectory of my scholarship for years to come. It opened doors in my mind that invigorated my work in ways I am still today following through on.

    When I much later discovered the philosophy of Kim Iryŏp, I imagined an alternative reality where Kim would have lived to see the emergence of Womanist–Buddhist dialogue and the spread of African American Buddhism. I am sure she would be gratified to see so many likeminded practitioners living as the “artist-creators” whose transformative energy-work remakes the shared world.

    The notion of “alternate realities” has emerged as a theme in my replies for this symposium—a theme which seems to pick up on some of the transformational possibilities offered in both religion and art. Like Yeng and Sparrow, Jones Medine brings artistry and aesthetics to this existential discussion, citing the writing practice of the author Toni Morrison, especially as this speaks to Morrison’s own relation to Buddhism. While reflecting on the Womanist–Buddhist engagement of Jennifer Leath in my reply to Yeng, I noted that my conception of liberatory enactment and existential meaning-making often defaults to scholarship and scholarly practice. Thanks to the contribution here of Jones Medine, I am now prompted to consider not only the creative and narrative dimensions of scholarship but also storytelling itself as a scholarly methodology.

    I think the danger here, in such a turn to storytelling, is that I would be seen as denying any recourse to objectivity in the midst of so many narratives purported to “construct” what is real. Once I would have pushed back at this view as a mere stereotype of critical theory and postmodern discourse; yet the current inability in everyday life for our friends and families to agree on the “real” versus the “fake” news, or to feel comfortable conceding to scientific consensus, has prompted me to tread lightly when invoking the notion that anything is a “construct.”

    Nonetheless, in Buddhist traditions that are far older than critical theory and postmodern discourse, every existing thing is indeed a temporary construction lacking any substantive core. This is the key logic of Buddhist liberation—what is made can be unmade, what has a cause has a solution, and what is temporary is open to change. Although Buddhists have been accused of nihilism and relativism by their critics throughout history, the outcome of Buddhist discourse is not a denial of present conditions or a relativizing of suffering but a radical and hyper-sensitized compassion that is painstakingly attuned to the immediate grievousness of the cards we’ve been dealt.

    This capacity to fully acknowledge the extent of suffering in the world, as one encounters it in real time, is where a Buddhist sense of “objectivity” lies. The storyteller not only concedes to the objective force of present conditions but has the aesthetic imagination, emotional capaciousness, and critical acuity to conjure up better alternatives. The “story” here is not opposed to so-called reality but is the very working out of what really comes next. Hence, to think of scholarship as a mode of storytelling is not to diminish its significance but to uphold its transformative potential.

    On this potential, I follow Jones Medine in her discussion that brings together merit in a Catholic context, Buddhist teachings on the transformative power of non-action, and the non-violent methodology of Martin Luther King Jr. In Buddhism, the activities that generate positive consequences or karmic merit do not themselves bring about enlightenment but can facilitate the arising of circumstances better suited to attaining this goal. Most “good deeds” fall under the scope of merit, but notably in Buddhism merit-generating activities include many art-related practices such as calligraphy (copying sutras), architecture (building stupas), and painting (creating or commissioning images of buddhas and bodhisattvas).

    The scholar Wendi Adamek has explored this confluence of meritorious and artistic practice in Buddhism. Along with the syncretic tendencies in East Asian traditions, such Buddhist practices were in dialogue with literati (i.e., Ruist) discourse:

    The eighth century . . . saw the beginnings of a sophisticated discourse playing on the idea of the virtual nature of all things, body and image alike. References to the mutually resonating qualities of physical bodies, natural phenomena, salvific manifestations, and artistic representations were developed in the discourses of Chan Buddhism, literati poetry, and art appreciation. By the Song, we see playful and witty references to the notion that representation was the ‘true form’ of emptiness, because it directly embodied virtuality, other-dependence, and illusory self-referentiality drawing attention to its illusory nature.”1

    In other words, artistic representations are doubly illusory, but not in a Platonic sense, which is critical of this tendency of the arts to confound “stories” with “reality.” To the contrary, in Chan discourse, artistic representations are lauded as being “truer” to reality, because they foreground the interdependent, contingent, and temporary character of existing phenomena in general. The artistic construction is a heightened moment on a continuum that includes those everyday constructions that constitute selves, societies, and worlds.

    Adamek’s reference to “mutually resonating qualities” reflects the popular concept of ganying 感應, or “mutual resonance.” Though rooted in a qi-based understanding of the interactions of yin 陰 and yang 陽 and the five phases (wuxing 五行), ganying also comes to characterize a variety of Buddhist phenomena including the interactions of karmic forces and the compassionate responsiveness of bodhisattvas. On this model of mutual resonance, storytelling is not unidirectional. One recurring them in my book is that value creation is not the naïve application of an individualistic “will to power.” Accordingly, qi-based views on art-making practices uphold the creative agency of the materials themselves and value the receptive capacity of the artist as much as her productive output. To imagine the scholar within this aesthetic framework is one way we might emphasize inspiration, improvisation, and intuition as scholarly methods. None of these methods are effective when applied naively and do require training and practice. Yet, through the guidance of Jones Medine, I am motivated to think outside of my own comfort zone as a scholar, to speak in different voices, take up different writing practices, rethink what I mean by “research,” and imagine anew what the products of scholarship should look like.

    1. Wendi Adamek, “The Impossibility of the Given: Representations of Merit and Emptiness in Medieval Chinese Buddhism,” History of Religions 45.2 (November 2005): 135–80; 159–60.

Bin Song


A Paradigmatic Change in Existential Studies

In the twentieth century, one most significant development of Christian thought was contributed by Paul Tillich, who defined religion existentially as “ultimate concern,” and centered his systematic theology upon the pneumatology of “spiritual manifestation” rather than the traditional Christology. In light of Paul Tillich’s existential Christian theology, two distinctive points of what Leah Kalmanson has accomplished in the study of existentialism and Asian thought [particularly Ruism (Confucianism)] in this book lead to my vision that Kalmanson has cleaved the path for a paradigmatic change in existential studies in the English-reading academia.

Firstly, similar to Tillich’s method of “correlation” which employed traditional Christian sources to respond to issues of human conditions raised by existential philosophies, Kalmanson distinctively draws upon Ruism to furnish a cross-cultural response to existentialism. As a result, Kalmanson proposes new solutions to existential questions, which is exemplary of the central commitment of the book to the creation of new values.

Secondly, similar to Tillich’s final pneuma-centric theology, Kalmanson endorses a qi (vital energy, 氣)-based philosophy of Ruism. However, while prioritizing neither a mindset nor an attitude towards existential issues, Kalmanson distinctively focuses upon the practical aspect of ancient Ruism, and therefore, demonstrates the crucial role played by varying “philosophical practices” such as meditation, Yijing (the Classic of Change, 易經) divination, and ritual performance in a Ruist (Confucian) way of grappling with existential puzzles. The transition of foci from mentality to practice in existential studies marks nothing less than a paradigmatic change, especially when being considered in a cross-cultural context.

As when a pioneer steps into any unchartered territory, newly cleaved paths succumb to trial and error. With a persistent and collaborative heart, we would eventually set afoot in a hopeful land. In the following, I will raise several points to potentially perfect Kalmanson’s thesis in her existential treatment of varying practices in Ruism, and hence, join her ranks for the same destination.

Firstly, since the philosophical practices in question are qi-based, Kalmanson advocates a cross-cultural “speculative existentialism” to counteract Western existential philosophers’ suspicion towards metaphysics. In order to recover a favorable connotation of “speculative” as such, Kalmanson largely takes on a pragmatist approach: since it contributes to Asian philosophical practices which are thought of as being more adequate to tackle existential issues, the metaphysics of qi is not groundless, and hence, not “speculative” understood derogatively. Nevertheless, the derogative sense of “speculative” started to be developed in Western philosophy significantly earlier than existential philosophies. That’s when British empiricism critiqued Descartes’s metaphysical speculation, and these critiques culminated in Kant’s dismissal of the cognitive value of metaphysics as solely pertaining to the unknowable things-in-themselves. Clearly, without a robust response to the Kantian dismissal, Kalmanson’s recourse to Asian philosophies for her advocacy in speculative existentialism would sound unconvincing to existential philosophers. In one of my recent works,1 I try to argue that Kant’s dismissal does not do justice to the role played by metaphysical thinking in the development of modern science. Comparative metaphysics is actually a scientific endeavor if we understand metaphysical assumptions as belonging to the kernel of varying scientific “research programs” (Imre Lakatos) and hence, being susceptible of testing together with more peripheral hypotheses in the programs. More importantly, if we take the qi-based Ruism as a novel resource for metaphysical thinking, we will find the scientific nature of Ruist metaphysics also consists in how a metaphysical discourse facilitates the practice of personal transformation. This indicates a standard of scientific truth which complements the normally held ones of consistency and correspondence. In a word, I hope this work of mine can be utilized to strengthen Kalmanson’s argument for Ruist speculative existentialism.

Secondly, Kalmanson asks captivatingly whether the spiritual exercises of ancient Greek philosophy identified by Hadot can be understood as “rituals” in the Ruist sense, yet with no certain answer (160). Hadot himself is very clear that not until the second century CE, had ancient Greek philosophers such as later Neoplatonists incorporated religious rites such as “ablutions, sacrifices and invocations using ritual words”2 into their practice under the influence of Christianity. Hadot is also clear that these ritual performances are “wholly different” from earlier Greek philosophers’ spiritual exercises in that although not prioritizing theoretical argumentation as their goal, those spiritual exercises never abandoned it. Nevertheless, in their practice of rites, the later Neoplatonists abandoned theoretical philosophy, and succumbed human intelligence entirely to the initiative taken by gods for securing the efficacy of purifying rituals.3 In a word, for Hadot, philosophical spiritual exercises cannot be understood per a ritualistic model because in his mind, the model pivots upon a human attitude of submission towards the divine agency of personalistic gods or God.

Nevertheless, the Ruist ritualistic model does not rest upon a theistic cosmology; rather, as Kalmanson so eloquently argues, the metaphysical foundation of Ruist rituals is the all-pervading cosmic qi, and hence, non-theistic. This would make the dynamic between human agency and the transcendent cosmic power, which rituals are intended to mediate, appear in a way wholly different from the one assumed by Hadot in the Western case. In general, I believe Kalmanson has not paid sufficient attention to this subtle difference between the Ruist philosophy of ritual and Hadot’s Western ritual theory, and if rectified on this specific point, her project will be advanced in the two following ways: firstly, philosophical spiritual exercises in ancient Greece can and need to be expanded to include seemly religious ritual performances because (1) these seemingly religious rituals, such as the Yijing divination, sacrifices4 and meditation in the Ruist case, can be compatible with a persistent philosophical mindset of demanding human understanding of what one experiences in rituals; and (2) the cross-cultural study of seemingly religious rituals enriches the repertoire of philosophical spiritual exercises, and discloses novel methods of personal transformation. Secondly, deeper philosophical dimensions of Ruist rituals would also be uncovered. For instance, if she more realizes the seamless match of philosophy and religion in Ruist rituals, Kalmanson would focus upon the feeling of “joy” concerning the mourning ritual that was once broadly discussed by Ru philosophers in the Song and Ming period, rather than merely highlighting the “solicitude” aspect of it (108).

Last but not least, Kalmanson discloses candidly her methodological approach to the book in its final chapter: “In articulating this project, I have spoken as a reporter, not a practitioner” (130). The statement is striking because (1) I am amazed by her ability of accurate understanding of Ruism despite her exclusive reliance on reports; and (2) a nonpracticing approach to a project to which practice is pivotal seems counterintuitive, and this leads to my further concern: would those reports, which are mostly provided by analytical scholars working in the English-writing academia, have taken the same existential and practical approach to their interpretations of Ruism?

Let me use one instance to indicate why I am concerned as such. Kalmanson has taken a successful strategy to introduce readers to Ru spirituality through depicting the shared Ruist-Buddhist-Daoist cultural milieu of ancient East Asia, since Buddhist and Daoist sources are more known to Western readers. However, she has not yet done equally well in delineating the subtle differences between the three Asian traditions, particularly the one between Ruism and Daosim in ancient China. In reliance upon the scholarship of a comparative philosopher, Jeeloo Liu, who is trained and writes in the style of analytic philosophy, Kalmanson endorses a view that while sharing the same type of qi-based metaphysics, Ruism is different from Daoism merely regarding the moral attitude towards one’s social responsibility (135). I have offered my critique to Jeeloo Liu’s thought on this point elsewhere,5 and in the context of Kalmanson’s cross-cultural speculative existentialism, I need to reemphasize that metaphysical thinking matters in ancient Chinese thought precisely because the minutiae of variations in it correlate with the differences of how one practices one’s way of life in the mundane world. In other words, it is highly improbable that varying ethical attitudes towards social responsibilities are based upon the same metaphysics, since as elegantly argued by Kalmanson through the book, practical implications are intrinsic to Asian metaphysical thought. In a broad stroke, let me put the difference between Ruism and Daoism from the perspective of a practicing Ruist scholar as follows: while practicing meditation and other contemplative exercises, both Ruists and Daoists intend to regather their life energy via retreating into the quiet root of human existence continuous with the all-encompassing and constantly generating cosmic power of qi. However, because (1) Ruist metaphysics emphasizes the non-temporal generic traits of things in the world, including human existence, here and now, while Daoist metaphysics attends to the unfolding of the cosmic Dao in a temporal sequence of generation and cessation to which the status of human civilization is subordinated, and (2) the genuine distinction of humanity from non-human natural beings are cherished by Ruism while being taken with a grain of salt by Daoism, Ruists and Daoists react quite differently when they walk out of their meditation retreat. Ruists tend to proactively employ or invent appropriate civilizational means (which are “rituals” understood in the broadest sense) to sustain and harmonize human civilization so as to manifest the cosmic Dao in a distinctively human way. In this sense, civilization for Ruists is natural to humanity. However, Daoists tends to maintain a non-assertive lifestyle of meandering and malleability in face of what are de facto in the human world lest the complications imposed by human civilization upon the non-human nature intrude into the quiet root of human existence.

The three critiques I offered above are based upon my grateful acknowledgement of the paradigmatic change of existential studies that Kalmanson has amazingly carved out in this book. As elaborated in the beginning part of the book, what remains essential to the paradigmatic change is Kalmanson’s pondering over the ontological status of “meaning” and “value”: is the meaning of life merely subjective to human perceptions, or does it represent anything real outside of human subjectivity? While refusing the dualistic assumption of object-subject held by traditional and contemporary philosophical discussions on this question, Kalmanson highlights the non-dualistic approach of existential philosophies. In existential terms, since its “existence precedes essence” (Sartre), human living is always involved in a mode of “being-in-the-world” (Heidegger) before any awareness of object-subject arises. Therefore, values are neither ready-made to possess from outside nor imposed to realities by given human preferences from inside. Instead, while engaging the world, humans can renew themselves as the “creators of new values, new conditions, and new worlds” (Nietzsche) (31).

Nevertheless, the most significant question Kalmanson asks, which I believe will reverberate in the field of existential studies for a long time, is as follows: given all the remarkable non-dualistic insights of existential philosophies, “How do we do any of this?” (36). Since they intend to perfect Kalmanson’s analyses of Asian philosophical practices, my above critiques can also be seen as a response to this intriguing question. Particularly in light of the third critique, my final appeal to Kalmanson’s project would be: If a philosopher can perform rituals without ceasing to be a philosopher, why not let us practice rituals together while philosophizing, rather than merely philosophizing in reliance upon reports?

  1. Bin Song, “Comparative Metaphysics and Theology as a Scientific Endeavor: A Ruist (Confucian) Perspective,” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1.2 (Fall 2019): 203–24.

  2. Pierre Hadot, What Is Ancient Philosophy, trans. Michael Chase (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002), 170.

  3. Hadot, What Is Ancient Philosophy, 171.

  4. I explain why “three sacrificial rituals” of Ruism are philosophical in Bin Song, “‘Three Sacrificial Rituals’ (三祭) and the Practicability of Ruist (Confucian) Philosophy,” APA (American Philosophical Association) Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, 17.2 (April 2018): 2–5.

  5. Bin Song, review of Neo-Confucianism: Metaphysics, Mind, and Morality (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), by Jeeloo Liu, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2019.03.33:

  • Leah Kalmanson

    Leah Kalmanson


    Response to Song

    In my response to Jones Medine, I described listening to her talk at the 2011 AAR as one transformative moment in my professional life. Another such moment would be the 2018 symposium on Rectifying the Name of Confucianism, organized by Bin Song at Boston University, where all participants were welcomed to participate (if they chose to) in the ritual veneration of Kongzi or “Confucius,” which took the form of burning incense before an image of the sage.

    Several years prior to this, I had become interested in the question of ritual in philosophy—not ritual as a topic about which we might philosophize but ritual as a philosophical methodology in itself. I began researching and publishing in this area, but I had no ritual home of my own. I remember thinking to myself that creating new “philosophical rituals” would seem somewhat naïve, especially when one is (like myself) unmoored from any particular tradition. What I lacked, and hence craved, was a little bit of structure and formality.

    And then, serendipitously, in my email inbox appeared an invitation from Bin Song to attend the symposium in Boston, where the question of philosophical ritual practice would not only be discussed but indeed enacted via the aforementioned ceremonial veneration. Fast forward a few months later, and there I was in Boston, holding my stick of incense in my hand, waiting my turn in line to approach the sage’s image, and pondering what all had brought me to that moment in life.

    As I said, I had no ritual home of my own. I feel that an adequate reply to Bin’s insightful and incisive commentary requires a detour through some of these personal details. My father is “ethnically” Jewish (whatever that might mean). His family immigrated from the Jewish shtetls of Odessa to New York City in the early 1900s. My mother is white and grew up Protestant in Tennessee. She converted to Judaism before I was born, and I was raised Jewish. Our family lived in rural southeastern Georgia and attended the closest synagogue possible, an Orthodox congregation about forty-five minutes away.

    I felt Jewish enough: Growing up in small-town Georgia, as one of three Jewish children in our school system, and only five in all the surrounding counties, my status as a religious and possibly ethnic minority was not in question. I was clearly labeled as Jewish within my community due to my synagogue affiliation, my apparently unpronounceable last name, and my phenotypic appearance (i.e., I look stereotypically Ashkenazi).

    That said, I knew very little about Judaism. We went to the synagogue for the fun holidays: I remember the five of us children building the sukkot and stringing it with garlands of Froot Loops cereal, or cooking the hat-shaped cookies and blaring out sounds on “graggers.” But this synagogue rarely held Friday night services—Orthodox Jews can’t convene a ritual service without a gathering of at least ten males, and we simply didn’t have that many Jewish men in the area. I only learned the contours of what most other Jews on the planet understand to be the definitive weekly ritual when I studied various parts for my makeshift bas mitzvah, a ritual production that was carefully modified by the few Orthodox men who were in the area to make sure that no female hands touched the Torah.

    To this day, I remain basically a tourist in my own religion and an outsider in my own hometown due to that very same religion. And, funnily enough, it’s not even clear whether I’m “really” Jewish. As one rabbi once told me over a dinner, “It depends on whom you ask.” For some rabbis, following Judaism’s matrilineal line, the fact that my mother converted before my birth should render me Jewish; but she converted through a Reform synagogue, and hence, for many Orthodox rabbis, her conversion is in fact not sufficient. The right of someone like me to Israel’s Law of Return has been the subject of debate in the past, and even today I might be asked to go through a full conversion process before relocation would be allowed.1 Thus, whereas those in my hometown had no doubts about my status as a Jew, this status is less clear to many in my own supposed religious community.

    So perhaps it is no surprise that I ended up in comparative philosophy, trying to be the best guest possible in others’ ritual traditions. Does this rootlessness make me a perpetual tourist? Though I seek ritual transformation, am I perhaps consigned to agnosticism and the secular-humanistic trajectory of disenchanted modernity? Or, then again, does this very rootlessness make me somehow all the more Jewish, marking me with a specific heritage of nomadism and diaspora? In line with Jewish messianic expectation, am I just waiting for the time of ritual to return?

    These personal details seemed relevant to me after considering Song’s reflections—as he points out, in my book I debate my own “reporter” status as a scholar of comparative philosophy but not necessarily a ritual practitioner of either Ruism or Buddhism. On the one hand, since I wrote those words, I am happy to update Song that things have changed. I do have a qigong practice now, which I try to commit to daily. And I have benefitted greatly from Song’s work in his 2018 translation Ru Meditation: Gao Panlong (1562–1626). Although I originally thought that I craved structure and formality, I have found an affinity for Gao’s refreshingly casual and accessible approach to Ruist ritual practice. “Let us give up our meditation cushions,” he says, in a sly dig at Buddhist monasticism.2 I take Gao’s advice to heart: ritual practice is as simple as taking a few deep breaths before reading a book, being intentional with your daily schedule, and settling your mind into “ordinariness.”3

    On the other hand, I have lately begun to proactively reclaim some of my own heritages—both Southern and Jewish—regardless of whether either one claims me in return. Hybridized and ill-fitting identities such as my own are gadflies in the racial ecology of America today, perhaps especially in the South. Telling my story is a way to shift power. It is not a neutral move.

    In my other responses, I talked about both existential vigilance and the transformative power of scholarship as a mode of storytelling. I see now that both of these require a capacity to hold open a space of uncertainty—not a doomsday stance (as Heidegger keeps open the abyssal being-toward-death) but an imaginative ability to spin new narratives even while the old ones seek to re-entrench themselves. This capacity is strengthened in community, via dialogue and conversation, and I am grateful for the fortifying exchanges we have shared here.

    1. For more on the question of conversion through Reform institutions, see Judy Malz, “Does Israel Discriminate against Non-Orthodox Converts when Approving Immigration?,” Haaretz, February 14, 2017, For an Orthodox perspective on patrilineal Jewish descent, see Tzvi Freeman, “To a Child of a Jewish Father,”

    2. Gao Panlong, Ru Meditation: Gao Panlong (1562–1626), trans. Bin Song (Boston: Ru Media, 2018), 40.

    3. Panlong, Ru Meditation, 59.

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