THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 9, July, 1926
(Pages 395-399; Size: 16K)
(Number 9 of a 59-part series)
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.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.
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.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.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."
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.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.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:
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.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.
LAO TZU AND THE TAOISTS
(Part 10 of a 59-part series)
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