Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Virtue and Good Advice
I've started teaching Confucianism in my Religion 101 class. Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius) was born in 551 BCE into a China in the throes of anarchy. Wars between feudal lords were destroying the people and culture of China. The social philosophy he developed was the foundation of Chinese education for more than 2000 years. This image of Confucius is from www.hilaliya.com/confucius.jpg.
Confucianism, the religion that developed after his death in 479 BCE, is designed to instill key virtues in its adherents: benevolence, humility, maturity, appropriateness, and the arts of peace. Basically, he wanted to cultivate a "civilized" person who would love peace more than war.
The highest virtue of Confucianism is Jen or benevolence. The Chinese character for Jen is the combination of "human being" and "two." Confucius believed that we should see all persons as our brothers and sisters and treat them accordingly. Jen extends not only to other people, but also to the cosmos.
Virtues (and vices) are abiding patterns of behavior. They form our character. Although Confucianism doesn't have a formal concept of the soul, I think that "character" is a pretty good synonym. He wanted to create persons who were loving, humble, giving and conscious of the effect of their behavior on others and the world-- not a bad aim for any and all of us.