Confucianism. World Religions Chapter 7. Kung Fu-tzu. (Master Kung – 551 – 479 BC). Is better known as Confucius. From an early attempt to render his name in Latin. He is one of the most influential people who ever lived. Having a vast influence on ¼ of all the world’s population.
(Master Kung – 551 – 479 BC)
From an early attempt to render his name in Latin
Having a vast influence on ¼ of all the world’s population
That he has had such an influence
And his father dies very soon after his birth.
And is an exceptional student, studying poetry and history.
And become fascinated with politics and how the country is governed.
He gains a small post in the duke of Lu’s cabinet
But he finds his role is so inconsequential that he quits soon after.
He wanders from state to state trying to put his political theories into practice.
He eventually gives up, and comes back to Lu to teach.
In 479 BC at the age of 70.
Confucius was gifted with a remarkable strength of character.
His followers put together a collection of his sayings and teachings. This collection, called the Analects, is the main body of his teaching.
And they made sure his wisdom would not be lost.
The Master said: How dare I claim to be a sage or a benevolent man? Perhaps it might be said of me that I learn without flagging and teach without growing weary.”
What was the context in which he thought and worked?
Was a civilization that felt its glory days were passed.
Rulers oppressed people, states warred against each other, and society was falling into disarray.
There was a group called the Legalists, who wanted a return to strict law and harsh punishments for wrong doers.
preached a universal love for all people, including enemies. His followers were called the Mohists.
Taught that the individual quest was most important, and that the individual’s quest to be in harmony with nature is the path towards salvation and happiness.
His concern is for the health of society, and he focuses on human relationships to help restructure it.
He thinks that inspiring examples are more effective in changing behavior than punishment.
To teach us how to live ethical lives and how to repair society.
“I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity.”
He reinvigorated the tradition of worship of ancestors.
Ancestor worship helped maintain positive relationships with the dead. This was important because the dead could still impact the welfare of the living.
Were interpreted by his followers in the centuries to come. Some stayed very faithful to him, and others innovated his teachings for their time and concerns.
Confucianism was mainly confined to philosophers and teachers.
In 136 BC a state school of Confucian scholars was founded.
All Chinese formal education contained a thorough grounding in Confucianism.
Confucius was dedicated to learning, and he saw learning not merely a gathering of information, but a learning about how to be human.
Can we grow into maturity and greater well being.
So what does he mean by learning what it means to be human?
In Confucianism, it generally refers to the moral order that permeates the universe.
Then it is possible to come into harmony with it.
This understanding is vital for Confucius.
Chun-Tzu, which translates generally as gentleman.
And through his or her virtue, contributes to the good of society.
“The Master said: The gentleman seeks neither a full belly nor a comfortable home. He is quick in action but cautious in speech. He goes to men possessed of the Way to be put right. Such a man can be described as eager to learn.”
Confucius stresses many virtues, but several terms can give us special insight into what was important.
Jen roughly translates as benevolence, and is the supreme virtue in Confucian thought.
And by the concept of shu, which means reciprocity.
“Tzu-kung asked: Is there a single word which can be a guide to conduct throughout one’s life?
The Master said: It is perhaps the word shu. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.” (Analects 15.24)
“Someone said: What do you think of repaying hatred with virtue?
Confucius said: In that case what are you going to repay virtue with? Rather, repay hatred with uprightness and repay virtue with virtue.” (Analects 14.36)
The moral person will demonstrate their virtue with proper behavior.
Has two meanings: “rite” or “scared ritual”
“propriety” or “behaving properly given the situation at hand.”
Offers a complete guide to Li, a guide to ritual and behavior.
But to the mundane aspects of life - all work can be done with reverence and attention to detail.
What is the right thing to do with one’s father? Ruler? Friend? Daughter?
This is known as Wen – the cultural arts.
And was supposed to be expert at other arts: archery, charioteering, calligraphy, mathematics.
And as one grows in the arts, one contributes to society.
This is called Te.
Confucius deemed this as a much more effective means of leadership than punishment and law.
Confucius is concerned with harmony between human relationships.
The self, the family, the nation, and all humanity are linked in a web of relationships.
“Love between father and son, duty between ruler and subject, distinction between husband and wife, precedence of old over the young, and faith between friends.”
Confucius does not understand the self as an isolated individual – as in the West – but the self discovers its identity in the context of relationships.
Son, daughter, mothers, father, subject, ruler, wife, husband, friend, etc.
But is in a constant process of self-cultivation, engaging in the work of relationships to deepen our sense of who we are.
And especially duty to the elders in our family.
Can learn much from, especially in the modern context where age is seen as a burden and not a source of wisdom.
Should a wife be dutiful to an abusive husband?
Should children be kind to a cruel father?
Confucius thought that those who govern would be much more effective if they followed his notion of Te.
Confucius answered: In administering your government, what need is there for you to kill? Just desire the good yourself and the common people will be good. The virtue of the chun-tzu is like the wind; the virtue of the small man is like grass. Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend. (Analects 12.19)
But just because he is largely silent about them does not mean he did not think of them.
“Heaven is the author of the virtue that is in me.” (Analects 7.23)
While Heaven provided the moral order, Heaven is also impacted by and partially dependent on human society. The working of the human world impacts Heaven.
Confucianism is unique in world religions in this regard.
Communist governments in China and Korea have outlawed the practice of all religions, and the influence of western culture poses a challenge to traditional ways of life.
Especially the importance of family, will not diminish completely.
Also have much to offer the West, with its seeming lack of traditional life and loss of direction in many of the social challenges it faces.
And his wisdom is still a gift to humans today.