Some Basic Facts
Religion named after Confucius, the founder
Ch’iu K’ung, who was known to his followers as K’ung-fu-tse (K’ung the Philosopher). This was changed in the western countries to Confucius.
Period: 551 -479 BC.
Place of Origin:
The Five Kings:
- Yi K’ing (The Book of Changes)
- Shu K’ing (The Book of Annals)
- K’ing Shih (The Book of Poetry)
- Li K’ing (The Book of Ceremonies)
- Ch ‘un Ch ‘in (The Book of History)
Lu Yu (The Book of Analects). This book contains Confucius’ sayings and was compiled after his death.
Confucianism is a Chinese religion founded by Confucius who lived from 551 to 479 BC, around the same time that Mahavira and Buddha were founding two new faiths in India. The real name of Confucius was Ch’iu K’ung but his followers used to call him K’ung-fu-tse meaning K’ung the Philosopher. This, over the years, got simplified to Confucius in the western countries.
Although Confucius accepted the traditional concept of God and the Divine Law, his teachings mostly emphasized ethics, wisdom, governmental system, regard for justice and the value of tradition.
Confucius was a great teacher and he traveled throughout China, teaching and preaching his philosophy and his system of ethics. He laid great emphasis on the seeking of knowledge and the need to question anything that was ambiguous, until the ambiguity was removed.
The Teachings of Confucius
The teachings of Confucius can be condensed into six principles and five virtues. These are given below:
The Six Principles of Confucius
- Human nature is good and evil is unnatural.
- Man is free to choose his conduct as he wills.
- Virtue is its own reward. Doing good for a reward or avoiding evil for fear of punishments, is not virtue.
- The rule for behaviour is: what you do not want others to do to you, do not do to them.
- A man has five duties: to his ruler, to his father, to his wife (and she to him), to his elder brother, and to his friend.
- Man should strive to become a superior man.
Five Constant Virtues taught by Confucius
- Benevolence, which is to think of other people first
- Righteousness, which is not to do to others which you would not want them to do to you
- Propriety, which is to behave with respect and courtesy towards others
- Wisdom, which is to be guided by knowledge and understanding
- Sincerity, which is to be sincere, truthful and honest in all your actions
The Wisdom of Confucius
Following are some of the sayings of Confucius which have been selected from the Book of Analects:
- “He who does not recognize the existence of a Divine Law cannot be a superior man”
- “Repay kindness with kindness, and enmity with justice”
- “Men of superior mind first get down to the root of things; then the right course is open to them”
- “To prize the efforts above the prize, that is virtue”
- “Do not wish for speedy results nor trivial advantages”
- “The superior man will be agreeable even when he disagrees; the inferior man will be disagreeable even when he agrees”
- “The superior man seeks what is right, the inferior one what is profitable”
- “A good man is neither liked by everybody nor disliked by everybody. He is liked by all the good people and disliked by the bad”
- “Do not set before others what you yourself do not like”
- “In a good country, people speak out boldly and act boldly’
- “When you have erred, be not afraid to correct yourself”
- “We know so little about life, how can we then know about death”
- “To see what is right and not do it, that is cowardice”
- “Only the supremely wise and the abysmally ignorant do not change”
- “When you know a thing, maintain you know it; when you do not, acknowledge it. This is the characteristic of knowledge”
- “Let there be three men walking together, and in them I will be sure to find my instructors”
- “One should not be greatly concerned at not being in office, but rather about the requirements in one’s self for that office”
- “The superior man is slow to promise, but prompt to fulfill”
The Chinese religions have developed so differently from the Near Eastern or Indian religions that a proper or valid comparison is difficult to make. While most major religions emphasize the spiritual aspects of man’s life, Chinese religions emphasize only the moral and ethical aspects.
The moral and ethical teachings of the Chinese religions are quite comprehensive. It is in the area of spiritual philosophy and man’s relationship with God that these faiths fall short. The Chinese religions lack the intellectual speculation of the Indian faiths and the spirituality of the Near Eastern religions. For this reason many Chinese people practice the teachings of Confucianism but try to seek salvation in Buddhism.