THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 7, May, 1926
(Pages 308-312; Size: 16K)
(Number 7 of a 59-part series)
THE KINGS OF CHINA; CONFUCIUS THE CODIFIER
IN his Ocean of Theosophy William Q. Judge speaks of "ancient and honorable China" -- ancient it is, for as the Secret Doctrine tells us, the Chinese reached their highest civilization when the fifth Aryan race had hardly appeared in Asia. The original Chinese belong to the seventh sub-race of the Atlantean Race, and from them branched off not only the Malayans, Mongolians and Tibetans, but also Hungarians, Finns and even the Esquimaux.
These true Chinamen are of the inland, the aborigines who, in their purity, form the highest and last branch of the fourth Race, whose headquarters are in the province of Fo-kien where H.P.B. reports the existence of a "sacred library" which contains some most ancient Mss. in the Lolo language. The other Chinese are one of the oldest nations of our fifth race, whose latter-day Emperors are the degenerate successors of the Dragons or Initiates who ruled the early races of that fifth humanity. As to China being honorable, who has not heard of the integrity of the Chinese? In such spheres as commerce and politics they have a reputation for honesty and honor worthy of emulation by the modern world. Ancient and honorable China is dying, but her spiritual resources will be inherited by those who evolve out of that branch race.
The wisdom of China comes to us in certain great books, withstanding the ravages of time. In spite of changes and more omissions than interpolations, these texts are not so fragmentary and disconnected as those of Zoroastrianism, examined in previous articles. We are indebted to Confucius for this.
The Chinese divide their eras into three antiquities -- the most recent commences with the period of Confucius, who was contemporary with the great Buddha; the second, called the middle antiquity, goes back from Confucius to about 1200 B.C.; while the highest covers a period of 2200 years, commencing with Fu-hsi 5000 years ago. It will not be far wrong to regard Fu-hsi, as the Krishna of China, the opener of its Kali Yuga, first in the line of earthly rulers who "broke up the Primal Unity," of the preceding age.
Beyond the three antiquities is the "fabulous" and "mythological" era. It covers millions of years. Beginning with the epoch of Pan-ku in whose time "heaven and earth were first separated," we come to the 12 Tien-hoang, Kings of Heaven, 12 To-hoang, Kings of Earth, and 9 Gin-hoang or Kings' men, who ruled for some 500,000 years.
These 12 Tien-hoang are "the twelve hierarchies of Dhyanis or Angels, with human Faces and Dragon bodies; the dragon standing for Divine Wisdom or Spirit; and they create men by incarnating themselves in seven figures of clay -- earth and water -- made in the shape of those Tien-hoang, a third allegory." (S.D. II, 26-7.) Among these mythical beings is one Sui-zan, "The Man of the Burning Speculum," the Fire-Producer, the Prometheus of China.
Superb culture, heavenly knowledge and high civilization are reported in these prehistoric eras. Very scanty is the information about them available to the non-Chinese. These mythical figures, truer than their historical counterparts, remain unknown and unappreciated by the modern world, whose culture is too gross and narrow to grasp the meaning of the cosmic and evolutionary events which they embody.
Fu-hsi, also called Po-hsi, the first Human Ruler of the Chinese people, is even today regarded as a superhuman being. To his credit stands the task of recording the Eight Kwa or Trigrams. In the Yi King, an ancient work "written by generations of Sages" says H.P.B., which the Theosophical Glossary describes as the Kabbalah of China, it is said:
Anciently, when Pao-hsi had come to the rule of all under heaven, looking up, he contemplated the brilliant forms exhibited in the sky, and looking down he surveyed the patterns shown on the earth. He contemplated the ornamental appearances of birds and beasts and the (different) suitabilities of the soil. Near at hand, in his own person, he found things for consideration, and the same at a distance, in things in general. On this he devised the eight trigrams, to show fully the attributes of the spirit-like and intelligent (operations working secretly), and to classify the qualities of the myriads of things.
These eight trigrams are lineal figures of great interest to the student of universal metaphysics and occultism, both of which form such an important part of H.P.B.'s Secret Doctrine. These figures are made up of three lines: the first is made up of three unbroken lines, and is followed by one broken and the remaining unbroken lines, till the eighth is evolved, which is composed of three broken ones.
These represent (1) Heaven (2) Still Waters (3) fire (4) Thunder (5) Air (6) Running Waters (7) High land or mountains, and (8) Low land or earth -- the eight-fold universe described by the Bhagavad-Gita. Each of these is representative of a material plane and a hierarchy of conscious beings who all play their shadow-game on the illusory eighth, the earth, this man-bearing globe. Therefore, each also has its corresponding virtue. These eight form a circle, the first at the South and the last at the North.
These eight result from Four Hsiang or Emblematic Symbols, which in their turn come from the Two Elementary Forms, and the two from the One, the Great Extreme. James Legge, the well-known Chinese authority asked in 1882: "Who will undertake to say what is meant by 'the Great Extreme' which produced the two elementary forms?" The Secret Doctrine did undertake to answer him, and the student will find an explanation in Vol. I, 440-41, and Vol. II, 554.
Further, to the credit of Fu-hsi stands the construction of musical instruments and the spread of the Science of Sociology; he was par excellence the advocate of a pure family life and the dignity of the home. His successor invented agricultural implements, and thus gained for himself the title of "the Divine Labourer." Yi-King attributes the discovery of Agriculture to "the instruction given to men by celestial genii." (S.D. II, 374.) Hwang-Ti, the third of the prehistoric, semi-divine emperors was the builder of sacred shrines and libraries.
Under his influence arose a regular board of historians, the chief of whom was the reviser and amender of the hieroglyphic writing. Hwang-Ti also regulated the calendar, to which he added the intercalary month. His wife is credited with the invention of the several manipulations in the rearing of silkworms and the making of silk.
All this in the night of time. For thousands of years China has been famous for her discoveries -- artesian-wells, compass, glass, gunpowder, paper, printing, porcelain, etc. Much of this knowledge has come down from these mythical periods. Most probably it is to the board of sage historians of the reign of Hwang-Ti that the Chinese owe their habit of preserving records and their custom of maintaining archives. Our knowledge of ancient China comes from certain great books which have been transmitted with faithful care down the generations.
The first of these ancient volumes is the Shu King, which is history with proper chronology, which chronology is based on a very accurate astronomical knowledge; their astronomical sphere is assigned an antiquity of 18,000 years (S.D. I, 658; also II, 620).
The book acquired this title in 202 B.C., before which period it was known only as Shu -- "the Pencil speaking." A fourteenth century General Examination of Records and Scholars by Ma Twan-lin says that "the Pencil of the Recorders was busy from the time of Hwang-Ti" which is 2697 B.C. But the Secret Doctrine tells us that it was derived from the "very old Book" referred to in Isis Unveiled. Therefore it contains pointed references to events in the third and the fourth races. (S.D. Vol. II, 280-81; also Vol. II, 372.)
The first two books of the Shu King are regarded as legendary. They deal with the rules of Yaou and of Shun who had to contend against the floods and the deluge. Of Yaou, the ancient book narrates that when he found a handful of his subjects a little discontented, he said. "The fault is mine. I must study to increase my virtue and see wherein I have departed from the Way of Heaven." And again on hearing some sage advice, thus:
"We come by many branching roads and devious ways to the understanding of wisdom ... I perceive that the forest trees are of many sorts and sizes and that those which bear fruit do not put it all forth upon a single branch. I will think upon it." And this was what he had heard from the Keeper of the Hwa Mountain: "If you have many sons and they be well occupied, what need is there to fear?
If you are rich, you can distribute your wealth to others, and then what need is there for care? And if you live a long while and follow the true way, should the empire prosper you will flourish with the rest. But if you live a long while, and the world is filled with wickedness, you have only to retire into obscurity and cultivate your virtue, then when life is done and human ties are severed, you will go to join the gods. And thus transcending the clouds, you will attain the regions of the Supreme; so what occasion is there for decline?"
Of Shun it is written:
Wherever he ploughed the people forgot their landmarks, wherever he fished, the people took in their lines. He made pottery on the banks of the Hwang-Ho that was perfectly smooth and non-porous. He made implements at Show-shan. Wherever he lived for a year, the people formed a community; wherever he lived for two years they built a city; and wherever he resided for three years they erected a capital.
Then came Yu when the chronological accounts begin. Of this ruler H.P.B. writes:
The Emperor Yu the "Great" (2207 B.C.), a pious mystic, is credited with having obtained his occult wisdom and the system of theocracy established by him -- for he was the first one to unite in China ecclesiastical power with temporal authority -- from Si-dzang. That system was the same as with the old Egyptians and the Chaldees; that which we know to have existed in the Brahmanical period in lndia, and to exist now in Tibet -- namely, all the learning, power, the temporal as well as the secret wisdom were concentrated within the hierarchy of the priests and limited to their caste.
Yu was also the inspirer of nine urns with engravings on them which in a later age became the basis of Shan-Hai-King, i.e., Wonders by sea and land by Chung-Ku, B.C. 1818. H.P.B. adds that in the last quarter of the third century of our era Kwoh P'oh wrote a commentary on the same. Besides these historical records of Shu-King there are the Odes (Shi-King) and the Books of Rituals (Li-Chi).
To the Theosophical student of today what is of paramount interest in Chinese literature is the ethical philosophy of this ancient race. Our task is somewhat difficult but we will not lose our way in the labyrinthine maze of records if we keep these landmarks in mind. Three great rivers of religious, philosophic, and mystic tradition empty themselves in the ocean which today is China. Confucianism resulted from the activity of the sage who has played the most important role in Chinese history. He was the resuscitator of the Wisdom of his ancient people. He stitched the loose pages of old records in a coherent volume; he explained the metaphysics of Fu-hsi, of Yaou, of Yu; above all he taught noble ethics equal in rank to those of Jesus and even Gautama.
The second is the Tao, the Path that Lao Tze and his school walked and advocated others to tread. The third influence is that of Buddhism, which took root in the Chinese soil in the first century of our era. Like three sacred rivers in a confluence, these meet reaching a profounder depth and become more inspiring. The three rivers lose their different courses and become one in the life of the people. The current gathering force becomes clear of dross and in it the whole past of this great people is mirrored. These rapid and engulfing waters contain for the daring soul an experience not to be met elsewhere in the ocean of worldly knowledge.
The influence of the "Brothers of the Sun", as the Masters are called in the Chinese literature, has exerted an immemorial influence on the race and its achievements. Says H.P.B.:
The aphorisms in the oldest books of China, moreover, say plainly that the "Dragon" is a human, albeit divine Being. Speaking of the "yellow Dragon," the chief of the others, the Twan-ying-T'u says: "His wisdom and virtue are unfathomable ... he does not go in company and does not live in herds (he is an ascetic). He wanders in the wilds beyond the heavens. He goes and comes, fulfilling the decree (Karma); at the proper seasons if there is perfection he comes forth, if not he remains (invisible)." .... And Kon-fu-tyu is made to say by Lu-lan, "The Dragon feeds in the pure water of Wisdom and sports in the clear waters of life."
CONFUCIUS THE CODIFIER
THOUGH Confucius (Kung-Fu-Tzu) lived five centuries before the Christian era, his teachings are of the ancients. Most of his life was spent in learning and teaching what the ancients taught, most of his labor was bestowed on gathering together and codifying the metaphysics and philosophy, history and folk-lore of his predecessors. In his life and labor we see the wisdom and the discipline practised in China for thousands of years. Confucius did not teach a new philosophy, much less establish a new religion. Even today Confucianism is more a practice of ethics and observance of manners than a religious ritual. Confucius is not unique in reiterating that he is only a transmitter; but hardly any other transmitter was so scrupulous as to introduce in his codes only such teachings for which authentic records were available.
He arranged the scattered Shu King records with meticulous care. One of his descendants of the second century B.C. says that "he examined and arranged the old literary monuments and records, deciding to commence with Yao and Shun, and to come down to the times of Chau." His own grandson says that Confucius "handed down Yao and Shun as if they had been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed Wan and Wu, whom he took for his model." He conscientiously followed the Chinese tradition to which he himself makes pointed reference -- "a recorder would leave a blank in his text, rather than enter anything of which he had not a sufficient evidence." He said on one occasion that he could describe the ceremonies of the dynasties of Hsia and Yin (2205-1123 B.C.) but would not do so because the records before him "could not sufficiently attest his words." In the Confucian Analects (Lun Yu) we find the following (Translation by Lionel Giles, p. 84): "The Master said, 'My function is to indicate rather than to originate.
Regarding antiquity as I do with trust and affection, I would venture to compare myself with our ancient patriarch P'eng Tsu'." This Legendary Figure is said to have been 800 years old when he disappeared into the West (i.e., Tibet) in the eleventh century B.C. Mr. Giles adds that the last words in the text are taken by some to mean "our patriarchs Lao Tzu and P'eng Tsu"; Lao Tzu also is reported to have disappeared at an advanced age into the West.
On one occasion when he was very ill a disciple proposed the offering of prayer. "Is there a precedent for this?" asked Confucius. "There is. It is written, 'We pray unto you, O Spirits of Heaven and Earth'." "Oh! that," he replied, "my prayers began long ago." Confucius was antagonistic to prayer as the Christian world knows it. On another occasion in his own state of Lu the authorities were proposing to reconstruct the Long Treasury. A disciple of Confucius remarked, "Why not restore it, rather, in the ancient style? Why is it necessary to renovate it altogether?" Whereupon Confucius thus -- "This man is no talker, but when he does speak, he speaks to the purpose." Such was Confucius, desirous on every occasion "to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors."
Confucius is like the sun -- a focal point at which Primordial Light which is Darkness becomes visible. China had reduced itself to a condition of chaos, and he arose as if in answer to the agony of his ancient land, to restore order. As Mencius writes, "Again the world fell into decay, and principles faded away. Perverse speakings and oppressive deeds waxed rife again." Confucius was both teacher and ruler, and as such modelled his precepts and his practices on the idea -- "let us now praise famous men, and our Fathers that beget us." He did not contribute new ideas and practices to the inherited religio-philosophy of his land; but without him the old ideas would not have survived. The Confucian Texts, with but one solitary exception, are all faithful compilations from and of old records: that one, Chun Chin or the Spring and Autumn is a very brief chronicle of the history of his own native state of Lu for 242 years; he is the original author of this.
The mergence of Confucius in the Wisdom of his elders is so deep that a student perforce has to content himself with Confucianism; and this particular "ism" is thoroughly devoid of any personality, including that of the sage whose name it bears. All the ancient lore of his ancient people is what we know as Confucius -- the former is embodied in the latter, who has given it name and form. But also like the Sun, Confucius passes on the light. Since 500 B.C. China has reflected Confucian thought in her social polity and racial institutions.
In compiling and recording, Confucius has preserved due silence on esoteric matters; but to the intelligent Theosophist it is fully evident that he was a Chun Tzu -- an Adept of Wisdom and Compassion. Chun Tzu is variously rendered as "the superior man," "the higher type of man," "the princely man," because our modern sinologists are not familiar with the Theosophical concept of Masters and Mahatmas, of Adepts and Chelas. Because he was one such, he refused to explain what he means by the Great Extreme or to give the key to the divination of his Straws. Therefore, too, did he not believe in or teach a personal god, and discouraged prayer and worship. He did not found a religion. He advocated more an ethical system of life based on real tradition, copying the great examples of the old world and the precepts of the ever-new Nature. Family and state ceremonies, however formal they may have become now, were for him and his pupils but a means of expression of the innate virtues of individuals. Thus:
Ceremonies, forsooth! Can ceremonies be reduced to a mere matter of silken robes and jade ornaments? Music, forsooth! Can music be reduced to a mere matter of bells and drums? Men who are grave and stern in appearance, but inwardly weak and unprincipled -- are they not comparable to the lowest class of humanity -- sneaking thieves that break into houses by night? Your goody-goody people are the thieves of virtue.
When out of doors, behave as though you were entertaining a distinguished guest; in ruling the people, behave as though you were officiating at a solemn sacrifice.
From the age of 21 to 51 Confucius taught in a school started by himself. It had some 3,000 pupils. He taught the art of government, history, natural science, music, poetry, proprieties, -- this outwardly; but who can tell what sacred and secret teachings he imparted to the select few? H.P.B. mentions the existence of such schools in different countries of the old world, among them China, and instances "Confucius, the Atheist."
For four years he held high offices of state, and labored for his people on the principle, "the prime requisite in government should be not revenue but proper performance of function by all persons." And again -- "To govern a country of a thousand chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and faithfulness, economy in expenditure, and love for the people." He fell prey to political intrigue and became a wanderer -- preaching his wisdom, which according to Mencius struck terror into the hearts of rebellious ministers and villainous sons.
Confucianism is founded on the five King and the four Shu-books: (1) Shu (2) Shi (3) Yi (4) Hsiao (5) Li Chi; and (6) Lun Yu -- Analects (7) Ta Hsio -- the Great Learning (also to be found as Book 39 of Li Chi): (8) Chung Yung -- Doctrine of the Mean (written by the grandson of Confucius) and (9) the Works of Mencius, a famous expounder of Confucian lore. Voluminous commentaries exist, but are not available to the western world. (See S.D. I, XXV.)
Not only did Confucius labor with the ancient records, but himself set the example of paying them due homage. Thus, in reference to the Shi King: Confucius, on hearing that his son had not read the Odes, said "if you do not learn the Odes, you will not be fit to converse with."
Of Yi he said in the closing years of his life: "If some years were added to my life, I would give fifty to the study of the Yi, and might then escape falling into great errors."
Of Hsiao thus: "If you wish to see my aim in dispensing praise or blame to the feudal lords, it is to be found in the Spring and Autumn; the course by which I would exalt the Social relations are in the Hsiao King.
Of Li Chi he said: "Without the Rules of Propriety, respectfulness becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, timidity; boldness, insubordination; and straightforwardness, rudeness."
The influence of Confucius has permeated China, but has not gone beyond. H. P. Blavatsky writes:
Whereas the principles and doctrines of Christ and Buddha were calculated to embrace the whole of humanity, Confucius confined his attention solely to his own country, trying to apply his profound wisdom and philosophy to the wants of his countrymen, and little troubling his head about the rest of mankind.
From the work he did and the philosophy he taught it is evident that this Fifth-Round Man was purposely sent to the Chinese. In more than one place he has referred to his "heaven-sent mission," but very guardedly andhumbly; and after his departure his followers, due to his own example, were less unwise than those of Jesus, for instance, in making extravagant claims, though such statements as the following appear:
The wisdom of other men is like hills and mountain-peaks, which however high can still be scaled. But Confucius is like the sun or the moon, which can never be reached by the foot of man. A man may want to cut himself off from their light, but what harm will that do to the sun or the moon? It only shows very plainly that he has no notion of the measurement of capacity.
Of himself Confucius said:
At fifteen, my mind was bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I was free from delusions. At fifty, I understood the laws of Providence. At sixty, my ears were attentive to the truth. At seventy, I could follow the promptings of my heart without overstepping the mean.
We get an indication of the knowledge and power of the inner man in Confucius if we remember some of his pregnant statements. He said that he did not practice "the first order of Wisdom" -- he was not great enough for that. "In me knowledge is not innate." And again, "I used to spend whole days without food and whole nights without sleep, in order to meditate. But I made no progress. Study, I found, was better." His self-discipline and method of acquiring knowledge, his mode of disciplining and teaching others are also indicative:
If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.
My disciples, do you think that I have any secrets? I have no secrets from you. It is my way to do nothing without communicating it to you, my disciples.
There is no one, from the man who brings me dried meat as payment, upwards, to whom I have refused my instruction. But I do not expound my teaching to any who are not eager to learn; I do not help out any one who is not anxious to explain himself; if, after being shown one corner of a subject, a man cannot go on to discover the other three, I do not repeat the lesson.
Pursue the study of virtue as though you could never reach your goal, and were afraid of losing the ground already gained. A good man must have trained the people for seven years before they are fit to go to war. To take an untrained multitude into battle is equivalent to throwing them away. Alas! there are sprouting crops which never come into ear. There are others which, having come to ear, never ripen into grain. But all the same we ought to have a wholesome respect for our juniors.
Words of just admonition cannot fail to command a ready assent. But practical reformation is the thing that really matters. Words of kindly advice cannot fail to please the listener. But subsequent meditation on them is the thing that really matters. I can make nothing of the man who is pleased with advice but will not meditate on it, who assents to admonition but does not reform.
There were four words of which the Master barred the use: he would have no "shall's," no "must's," no "certainly's," no "I's."
In what is given above and in all his other teachings, we find Confucius was influenced, however indirectly, by Lao Tzu and the doctrine of the Tao. It was in 517 B.C., when Confucius was 34 and Lao Tzu was already famous as "the Old Philosopher," "the Old Gentleman," or what is regarded as a truer translation, "the Old Boy," that the two met. Confucius was then keeping school, his great labors were still to be undertaken, but he was already gaining fame as a resuscitator of the glory of ancient China, and as the coming historian. This interview had a lasting effect on Confucius. It must have made the hoary records more living, the ancient rituals more purposeful, and the old proprieties more practical for him. The Soul of Confucian thought so akin to Taoism was born out of this famous meeting of the two mighty souls. Like Plato, better known than his inspirer Pythagoras, Confucius has more followers than Lao Tzu; but the few words of the venerable sage fecundated the mind of Confucius, who, says H.P.B., "has not the depth of feeling and spiritual striving of his contemporary Lao Tzu."
Confucius sought this interview so that he might question the Sage on the subject of his own work. Here is the report given by a Chinese authority of the first century B.C.:
Lao Tzu to Confucius -- "The men about whom you talk are dead, and their bones are mouldered to dust; only their words are left. Moreover, when the superior man gets his opportunity, he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him, he is carried along by the force of circumstances. I have heard that a good merchant, though he have rich treasures safely stored, appears as if he were poor; and that the superior man, though his virtue be complete, is yet to outward seeming stupid. Put away your proud air and many desires, your insinuating habit and wild will. They are of no advantage to you; -- this is all I have to tell you. Why do you not obtain the Tao? This is the reason -- because you do not give it an asylum in your heart."
On his return to his disciples, Confucius said of Lao Tzu:
I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon -- I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and can only compare him to the dragon.
That which is the Soul of Confucianism; that which he himself calls "the one connecting thread on which all my knowledge is strung," and again, "a single principle runs through all my teaching"; that which is the Chung-Yung, the Doctrine of the Mean; that which is the basis and the modus operandi for the discharge of Filial Duty; -- that all is akin to the spontaneity, which is the Soul of Taoism. The two systems of thought are not antagonistic; each enlivens the other and taken together enable us to understand better the Chinese heart. Seeming rivalry disappears like a phantom with the advent of knowledge; to the Theosophist these two are but distinguished parts of a living whole.
The tomb of Confucius can be visited today in the K'iuh-fow district. Surrounded by many, many descendants, there lies the body of the sage; a great stone tablet bears the inscription, "Grave of the Most High." Unadorned simplicity is its garb; lonely in its own grandeur it stands, though during these centuries an immense cemetery has grown up. Adjoining it can be seen the Mourning House wherein his disciples assembled at and after the passing of their Master.
There also exists the original temple of the four gates belonging to Confucius; and there is his statue of more than life-size; adorned with Imperial emblems he sits, below curtains of heavy, many-colored silk. But a holy man of China tells us that Confucius survives in a still more living temple and in a still more Animated Statue: the 73rd descendant in the direct line lives; born in 1919, he is a boy of seven this year, and during his minority his mother and his uncle act on his behalf.
The Tomb, the Temple, the Statue are symbols; the living descendant of Confucius also is a symbol; Confucius himself is a Symbol -- the Energy of Wisdom is transmitted through the ages.
CONFUCIANISM is an inner attitude, a method, copied from great nature, whereby man should contact and control his outer environment. There is a moral order of the universe -- "how active it is everywhere! Invisible to the eyes and impalpable to the senses, it is inherent in all things, and nothing can escape its operation." Therefore it abides in man also. He cannot escape it for one instant; "a law from which we may escape is not the moral law."
The moral order of the macrocosm has to be enquired into; with veneration it should be studied; man must find out how he is the exact copy of that macrocosm and how the same moral order governs both. Ethics more than metaphysics, moral worth more than intellectual acquisition, are the means recommended.
The life of the moral man is an exemplification of the universal moral order.... The life of the vulgar person is a contradiction of that order.... To find the central clue to our moral being which unites us to the universal order, that indeed is the highest human attainment.... The wise mistake moral law for something higher than what it really is; and the foolish do not know enough what moral law really is.... The noble natures want to live too high, high above their moral ordinary self; and the ignoble do not live up to their moral ordinary self. There is no one who does not eat and drink. But few there are who really know the taste of what they eat and drink.--Chung Yung.
Individuals make the family, individuals make the ruling class, individuals form the class of the ruled, individuals make trade guilds. The rich are the individuals; so are the poor. Bad and good are the individuals and Confucianism starts with the individual. In a hundred ways we are made to recognize the unique importance of the human individual.
There are three classes of men -- inferior, superior, Divine. Confucius defines the first thus:
A man who is foolish, and yet is fond of using his own judgment; who is in humble circumstances, and yet is fond of assuming authority; who, while living in the present age, reverts to the ways of antiquity: such a man is one who will bring calamity upon himself.
The inferior man must become the moral man. He must practise morality, i.e., filial piety, in his hourly relationships with other men, and especially in the home. Filial Duty is the central idea of the system, but it is all-comprehensive. Just as the concept of Dharma among the Hindus widens from the family and caste to state and humanity, so also Filial Duty among the Chinese. The Hsiao Ching treats of the Filial Duty of emperors, officials, literati, sages, etc., and Confucius says:
Filial Duty is the constant doctrine of Heaven, the natural righteousness of Earth, and the practical duty of man.... When a ruler wishes to teach his people to love their parents he does not go to their family every day; he teaches them by showing reverence to all old people.... A true gentleman is always filial to his parents;... as he can maintain order in his family affairs, so he can do the same in the government. He bases the principle of the government of a State upon that of ruling a family.
But blind obedience is not what Confucius recommends. The maxim is -- Resist when wrongly commanded: "How can he be called filial who obeys his father when he is commanded to do wrong?" Right education by the elders of the young is based on grave responsibility. "Crime is not inherent in human nature, and therefore the father in the family, and the government in the state are responsible for the crimes committed against filial piety and the public laws." By Filial Piety the inferior man becomes superior.
From the virtues and characteristics assigned to these three classes of humans, it is not difficult to perceive that the inferior men are the vast masses who live without an objective, and without a philosophy. The superior men are the practitioners of the doctrine of the mean, listeners to the voice of the moral order within themselves, the disciples and the chelas who struggle through many failures to attain the divinity of the third class.
The central idea to be kept in mind in studying Confucianism is that the individual is regarded as the builder of the state and the empire through the family; he builds by discarding privileges and assuming responsibilities; he achieves this by practising filial piety and thus moves from the condition of inferiority to that of morality; and then practising Jen ultimately reaches divinity. Every man is born with congenital duties and the first of them is his obligation to his parents. Beginning with those who gave him his body he extends his courtesy to Nature who made him what he is.
The moral life of man may be likened to travelling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest stage. It may also be likened to ascending a height: one must begin from the lowest step.
At home, a young man should show the qualities of a son; abroad, those of a younger brother. He should be circumspect but truthful. He should have charity in his heart for all men, but associate only with the virtuous. After thus regulating his conduct, his surplus energy should be devoted to literary culture.
Confucianism advocates constant and continuous action by the individual within himself. He must practise Jen, which is translated virtue, but Mr. Giles points out that its primary meaning is "natural goodness of heart as shown in intercourse with one's fellow-men." Confucius said that "Jen rarely goes with artful speech and insinuating looks." His Jen, the moral order within him, enables him to conform himself to his life circumstances, whatever they be. The moral man does not desire anything outside of his position; in no situation in life is he not master of himself.
In a high position he does not domineer over his subordinates. In a subordinate position he does not court the favors of his superiors. He puts in order his own personal conduct and seeks nothing from others; hence he has no complaint to make. He complains not against Heaven nor rails against men.
Thus the moral man lives out the even tenor of his life. When he blunders or fails he looks within.
When a man carries out the principles of conscientiousness and reciprocity he is not far from the moral law. What you do not wish others should do unto you, do not do unto them.
The Confucian Doctrine of the Mean is to be practised for the cultivation of the Moral Order.
When the solid outweighs the ornamental, we have boorishness; when the ornamental outweighs the solid, we have superficial smartness. Only from a proper blending of the two will the higher type of man emerge.
True goodness springs from a man's heart, i.e., his inner moral law or Jen. He ought to be free from grief and fear. "If on searching his heart he finds no guilt, why should he grieve? and of what should he be afraid?" This is the practical rule in the words of Confucius:
Do not use your eyes, your ears, your power of speech or your mental movement without obeying the inner law of self-control.
But all this moral power is not only for self-improvement; he must "pass on to the cultivation of duty to your neighbour." Never abandon the practice of Jen "even when among savages." The moral man "seeks all he wants in himself; the inferior man seeks all that he wants from others." He who practises Jen pays special attention to nine points:
He is anxious to see clearly, to hear distinctly, to be kindly in his looks, respectful in his demeanour, conscientious in his speech, earnest in his affairs; when in doubt, he is careful to inquire; when in anger, he thinks of the consequences; when offered an opportunity for gain, he thinks only of his duty.
The practice of the moral law within evolves intuition which is different from intelligence which is the result of education. Intuition leads to absolute knowledge and truth.
Truth is not only the realization of our own being: it is that by which things outside of us have an existence. The realization of our being is moral sense. The realization of things outside of us is intellect. These, moral sense and intellect, are the powers or faculties of our being. They combine the inner or subjective and outer or objective use of the power of the mind.
Thus absolute truth is indestructible. Being indestructible, it is eternal. Being eternal, it is self-existent. Being self-existent it is infinite. Being infinite, it is vast and deep. Being vast and deep, it is transcendental and intelligent. It is because it is vast and deep that it contains all existence. It is because it is transcendental and intelligent that it embraces all existence. It is because it is infinite and eternal that it fills all existence. In vastness and depth it is like the Earth. In transcendental intelligence it is like Heaven. Infinite and eternal, it is Infinitude itself.
Such being the nature of absolute truth, it manifests itself without being evident; it produces effects without action; it accomplishes its ends without being conscious.
The principle in the course and operation of nature may be summed up in one word: it exists for its own sake without any double or ulterior motive. Hence the way in which it produces things is unfathomable.
Nature is vast, deep, high, intelligent, infinite, and eternal. The heaven appearing before us is only this bright, shining spot; but when taken in its immeasurable extent, the sun, moon, stars, and constellations are suspended in it, and all things are embraced under it. The earth, appearing before us, is but a handful of soil; but taken in all its breadth and depth, it sustains mighty Himalayas without feeling their weight; rivers and seas dash against it without causing it to leak. The mountain appearing before us is only a mass of rock; but taken in all the vastness of its size, grass and vegetation grow upon it, birds and beasts dwell on it, and treasures of precious stones are found in it. The water appearing before us is but a ladleful of liquid; but taken in all its unfathomable depths, the largest crustaceans, fishes, and reptiles are produced in them, and all useful products abound in them.
The ultimate goal can be reached by a triple path which is named "the three universally recognized moral qualities of man." They are (1) Intelligence, (2) Moral character and (3) Courage. "It matters not in what way men come to the exercise of these qualities, the result is one and the same." Theosophical students will recognize in these three the Margas of the Bhagavad-Gita -- Gnyanam, Bhakti and Karma. The first step is to hear of the way: "Having heard the True Way in the morning what matters it if one should come to die at night." The second is the changed attitude: "The scholar who is bent on studying the principles of virtue, yet is ashamed of bad clothes and coarse food, is not fit to receive instruction." The third is preparation: "Instead of being concerned that you are not known, seek to be worthy of being known."
He who intuitively apprehends truth, is one who, without effort, hits what is right, and without thinking understands what he wants to know; whose life is easily and naturally in harmony with the moral law. Such an one is what we call a man of divine nature. He who acquires truth is one who finds out what is good and holds fast to it.
In order to acquire truth, it is necessary to obtain a wide and extensive knowledge of what has been said and done in the world; critically to inquire into it; carefully to ponder over it; clearly to sift it; and earnestly to carry it out.
The ideal for all men is the Chun Tzu, the Superior Man. Having gathered wide objective knowledge from the branches of polite learning, such an one will regulate the whole by an inner attitude. Two classes of these superior men are referred to -- those of moral virtue and those of divine virtue, and the latter "confer benefits far and wide, and are able to be the salvation of all." They are the Masters. The inferior man is constantly agitated and worried; the moral man is calm and serene, wishing to stand firm himself, he lends firmness unto others, and wishing to be illuminated, he illuminates others. The divine man is thus described:
It is only the man with the most perfect divine moral nature who is able to combine in himself quickness of apprehension, intelligence, insight, and understanding: qualities necessary for the exercise of command; magnanimity, generosity, benignity and gentleness: qualities necessary for the exercise of patience; originality, energy, strength of character and determination: qualities necessary for the exercise of endurance; dignity, noble seriousness, order and regularity: qualities necessary for the exercise of self-respect; grace, method, delicacy and lucidity: qualities necessary for the exercise of critical judgment.
Thus all-embracing and vast is the nature of such a man. Profound it is and inexhaustible, like a living spring of water, ever running out with life and vitality. All-embracing and vast, it is like Heaven. Profound and inexhaustible, it is like the Abyss.
It is only he in this world who is possessed of absolute truth that can order and adjust the great relations of human society, fix the fundamental principles of morality, and understand the laws of creation of the Universe.
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Think for yourself and do not quickly accept ideas. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thes. 5:21)
If you have enemies, each has a Soul, as you do.
" Love your enemies "
" By their fruits you will recognize them" (Matt.7:15-16) "
" Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. " --Robert A. Heinlein
" I neither know nor think that I know. " --Socrates
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