When I consider what the Far East has offered our world, it breaks my heart to see people exercise such cruelty to Asians. The Asian community is a group of people that are often overlooked in this country. Although they make up a considerable portion of the world’s population, you wouldn’t know it based on popular culture in America. Asian stars are few and far between and the stereotypical representation is poor.
As Confucius says, “Virtue dwells not alone, she must have neighbors.” In lieu of the recent rash of racist rants and abuse against our Asian brothers and sisters, I was inspired to visit the teachings of “The Master.”
The analects are “partial sayings” and incomplete dialogues between Confucius and his disciples. Though he lived between 551BC and 479 BC, his teachings were important to his culture at the time but were not recorded by his disciples until after his death sometime around 479BC and 221 BC. They are time honored teachings and continue to be of import in Asian cultures and serve to educate Chinese to this day. They are quick reminders of how we are to act in society. Their wisdom has guided many to rich lives of righteousness and integrity.
I was particularly drawn to the section on “Social Virtue.” I guess the nobility of virtuous pursuits is timeless and our aspirations to attain the highest virtues brings with it a beautiful poetic quality to existence.
When it comes to “Social Virtue,” Confucius breaks it down to “Superior and Inferior Man.” He writes, “The superior man is one who is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.” Translated: There’s a big difference between those who practice obedience to love and those who are obedient to worldly survival and fear.
As a wandering prophet, the Master K’ung, moved throughout China teaching political officials the appropriate values and virtues of leaders in society. Confucius calls out the inordinate values that corrupt society. He writes: “A great man is hard on himself, a small man is hard on others.” Translated: “You’re a bum if you resort to shooting others down to build yourself up.”
Regarding social virtue: “Those who are without it cannot abide long, either in straitened or in happy circumstances. Those who possess it find contentment in it. Those who are wise go after it as men go after gain.
“Only they in whom it exists can have right likings and dislikings for others.”
Translated: “If you’re smart, you’ll work for good and as a result be able to discern more readily healthy working relationships in society.”
“Where the will is set upon it, there will be no room for malpractices. Translated: “Numbskulls are real. Don’t be a numbskull.”
“It is social good feeling that gives charm to a neighborhood. And where is the wisdom of those who choose an abode where it does not abide? Translated: There goes the neighborhood if you let others hurt people.”
Like all good faiths, Confucius is working toward developing a utopian society. It starts with the individual and the response of community and working toward that goal.
These sayings pack a lot of punch and can serve to fight the good fight by working for good of all in society. There is a stoic quality to the wisdom expressed. Although the wisdom teachings are short but sweet, they serve as a powerful reminder that much can be said when it is thought out and asserted with intentional language.
In his first book, Confucious reminds us: The philosopher Tsang said, “I daily examine myself on three points: whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful; whether, in exchanges with friends, I may have been not sincere; whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.”
Translated: “Guard against being guilty of any of the above and take seriously the teachings of integrity.”