Concepts of Confucianism and Daoism

9 September 2016

Concepts of Confucianism and Daoism Author’s Name Institutional Affiliation Abstract Confucianism is seen or viewed as a way of achieving the full potential in persons thus attaining harmony in society and the world through moral cultivation. All Confucians share the conviction that it is possible to transform oneself and all of society through the cultivation of virtue. This paper therefore discusses various concept and assumptions of Confucianism mainly ren, xiao, li and yi and it also touches on Daoism. Concepts of Confucianism and Daoism

Confucianism can be defined as a way of achieving the full potential of human life and attaining harmony in society and the world through moral self-cultivation. It is agreed among Confucian thinkers that the cultivation of moral virtues through which a person learns to be fully human is fundamental to human and social well-being. Confucius or Kong Zhongni was born in China where he was well known as Kong Fuzi and by the time he was growing up he personally experienced the poverty, political abuse and hardship that affected the lives of ordinary people.

Concepts of Confucianism and Daoism Essay Example

Confucius shared a belief that although the way of humans is established in the way of heaven and operates in harmony with the way of nature it is to the ideals and exemplars of the human way that we must turn to for guidance for the purpose of reforming and renewing the society. Naturalism agrees that it is nature that is taken as the ultimate source of values whereby the human principles for human action and life are taken from nature. On the other hand supernaturalism argues that a being or power other than human beings or nature is taken to be the ultimate source of value.

The supernatural being regulates both nature and humans making them subordinates. Humanism is a concept whereby humanity, rather than the nature or God is taken as the ultimate source of values. In humanism people look to the best of their human practices to find the principles that provide for goodness and happiness. The main concepts of Confucianism are those of human goodness (ren), propriety (li), filiality (xiao), and rightness (yi). The word ren has been translated in many different ways to mean “virtue,” “humanity,” “benevolence,” “true manhood,” “moral character,” “love,” “human-goodness,” and “human-heartedness” among other meanings.

Human-heartedness suggests that ren makes us human because it is a matter of feeling as well as thinking therefore becoming the foundation for all human relationships. This reveals the Chinese emphasis on the heart, rather than the head, as the central feature of the human nature. Confucius understood that the way of humanity is highly personal, lies within each human being, and must be realized in one’s personal life and one’s personal relationships. Confucius once answered his student who asked the definition of ren that it meant the action of loving men.

Ren’s ultimate principle of action reveals that a superior man never abandons humanity (ren) even for the lapse of a single meal and in moments of haste he acts according to it and in times of difficulty or confusion he acts according to it. One who departs away from ren is not expressing the fullness of humanity. A resolute scholar and a man of humanity will never seek to live at the expense of injuring humanity and he would rather sacrifice his life at the expense of realizing humanity.

It is ren, ultimately that makes life worth living. Conscientiousness or zhong agrees that one has to strive to be the best he or she can be and to do the best one can do while Altruism (shu) consists in putting oneself in place of others, extending ren to all relationships. The way of zhong and shu incorporates the golden rule of Confucius namely treat others as you wish to be treated. It is only through enriching and optimizing human relationships that self and society can achieve their highest perfection.

It is observed that ren is the basis of humanity and the ultimate guide to human action, Confucius recognized that more immediate and concrete actions are needed in every day life. The concrete guides to every day human action is found in the rules of propriety (li) governing customs, ceremonies, and relationships established by human practice over the ages. Therefore li is the ceremonial or ritual means by which the potential of humanity i. e ren is realized. On another occasion when Confucius was asked what is ren about he replied by saying to master oneself and return to propriety (li) is humanity (ren).

Self-mastery refers to the self-development that overcomes selfishness and cultivates the inner qualities of humanity that include sincerity and personal rectitude. Confucius also believed that if a man can for one day master himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will return to humanity. To practice human is the human choice thus what meks li a standard of conduct is the fact that it is in accord with ren. Therefore customs and regulations cannot be in accordance with ren if they are not li.

The individuals own humanity can be evoked and developed through true ren. Embodies of li included ceremonial activities and they were very clear to Confucius as of one day he is said to sigh after a ceremony. Confucius was attached to a remark that li was the principle by which the ancient kings embodied the laws of heaven and regulated the expression of human nature and therefore he who has attained li lives and he who has lost it dies. To understand the importance of li we need to examine the meaning this concept had on Confucius and his predecessors.

The word li can be used in many ways to give different meanings and this may include religion; general principle of social order; the entire body of social, moral and religious practices taught by conficius. Li can also be viewed as a system of well defined social relationships with definite attitudes toward one another, love in the parents, filiality in the children, respect in the younger brothers, friendliness in the elder brothers, loyalty among friends, respect for authority among subjects, and benevolence in rulers. Thus li entails moral discipline in personal conduct and also means propriety in everything.

Li is that important to Confucius that it must be looked deeply whereby we find that the earliest notion of it is religious where it is concerned with the rights of religious activities performed by the emperor to secure the blessings of Heaven and support of the spirits for his reign. This soon came to denote most emperor’s duties as well as a did range of other rituals, such as marriage, and military and government festivals and therefore the sense in this coincides with amore or less elaborate set of rules and conventions, requiring strict observation for public activities.

The second notion of li explains it in terms of customary code of social behavior and in this sense it is customary law, or common morality. Therefore in this particular sense li takes the place of written law though it differs from the written law in that it is positive rather than negative. Li was generally assumed to conform to aristocracy. The last meaning of li describes it as anything proper and conforming to the norms of humanity.

All the meanings of li are related and all refer to acts that are public and are ceremonial, acts constituting the important rituals of life for example exchange of greetings between two people or mourning rites for a deceased relative. A ceremony is considered public in the sense that it involves at least two people in relationship with each other. The development of ren is backed by the shared participation in life with other persons who are fundamentally a like in their common human nature.

Yu Tzu, a favorite student of Confucius, said, “filiality (xiao) and brotherly respect are the root of humanity. This is the virtue of reverence and respect for family and firstly parents are revered because life itself is generated from them. Therefore it is important to protect the body from harm just to show reverence to the parents since the body is from these parents. Honoring the parents can be shown by protecting the body. Reverence in bigger part can be shown to parents by doing well and earning them respect. Xiao concentrates in bringing parents emotional and spiritual richness.

And, equally important, after parents are dead, their unfulfilled aims and purposes should be the aims and purposes of the children which is even more important than offering sacrifices to the departed spirits. The xiao virtue influences actions outside the family circle and becomes a moral and social virtue. Children acquire love from their brothers and sisters after showing respect and reverence for their parents and when this is accomplished the children can love all humankind thus the beginning of ren was found in xiao.

Confucius also stressed another necessary virtue for developing ren and that is yi usually translated as rightness. He argued that the superior man regards rightness (yi) as the substance of everything. Yi tells us about the right way of acting in certain situtions so that we will stay in the same line as ren demands. It mainly deals with morality which determines a person’s ability to recognize what is right and do the right. Confucius viewed this ability in terms of a person’s character or uprightness.

Yi talks of morality in that a person who sees an opportunity for personal gain thinks first about whether it will be morally right (yi) to do so. Such a person is able to sacrifice his or her own life for someone in danger. In yi since its morally right action we therefore see that some actions must be performed for the same reason that they are right. Other actions may be performed for the sake of something valuable they bring about i. e. for the sake of profit.

This is contrary to the actions performed according to yi which are only performed because they are right. It is evident that li, xiao and yi make the characteristics of a superior person who has both humanity and morality cultivated in him therefore becoming the opposite of the person who is morally uncultivated. Embodiment of ren through li, xiao and yi will result in a well ordered society. Therefore people must have faith or sincerity in these virtues for there to be good governance and harmonious social order.

Along with Confucianism, Daoism/Taoism is one of the greatest indigenous philosophical traditions of China. The Daoist ideas and concerns include wuwei meaning effortless action, ziran meaning naturalness, how to become a shengren i. e sage or zhenren i. e realized person and the mysterious Dao meaning way. Daoism is described as a retroactive grouping of ideas and writings which were already at that time one to two centuries old, and which may or may not have been ancestral to various post-classical religious movements.

Wing-Tsit a philosopher spoke of Daoist religion as a degeneration of Daoist philosophy arising from the time of celestial masters. Wing – Tsit viewed that Daoist philosophy (daojia) and Daoist religion (daojiao) are absolutely different traditions and therefore trying to separate the two is more of the western frame of reference we use than of Daoism itself. The ideas of the Daoist fermented among master teachers who had a holistic view of life.

These Daoists practiced meditation and physical exercises, studied nature for diet and remedy, practiced rituals related to their view that reality had many layers and forms with whom/which humans could interact, led small communities, and advised rulers on all these subjects. The teachings of the masters gradually became more available through their masters. Therefore it’s difficult to separate Daoism from religion or philosophy since it is evident in both. Daoism is clearly understood in Chinese language since it originates in China. References Koller M. J. (2006). Asian Philosophies.

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