Thursday, February 12, 2009

Confucius and "The Great Learning"

Though he lived in times when there was constant warfare between neighboring states, Confucius began as a public teacher, and his house became a gathering place for young people who wished to learn from the lessons of the past. One of his overriding concerns was with opening up education to all, emphasizing character building rather than vocational training.

While his goal was to bring peace and order to states, his words had little effect during his lifetime. His ideas subsequently became the foundation for most of the concern for humanity found in subsequent Chinese philosophy. Unfortunately, his name has often been used as a cloak for despotic rule, by a false analogy between a dictator and the head of a family.

"The path for learning greatness is to illuminate the goodness in man, to bring out what is best in people, and to achieve the highest excellence. Once the true point of departure on this path is found, thought becomes clear. A calm imperturbability yields the tranquility needed for careful deliberation. That deliberation will achieve the desired goal."

Things have their roots and their branches. Affairs have their ends and their beginnings. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in The Great Learning.

Confucius lived from about 551 BCE to 479 BCE. He was born with the family name K'ung. Through the respect he gained for his teachings, he began to be referred to as Grand Master K'ung — K'ung Fu-tzu. He said that at the age of fifteen he bent his mind to learning, and he continued to express a deep admiration for learning throughout his life. Confucius married at 19, his son being born a year later. Subsequently he had two daughters, one of whom died when she was quite young.

From The Great Learning:

"The ancients wishing to exhibit goodness throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. To order well their own states, they first brought order into their families. To bring order into their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. To rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things."

"The investigation of things rounded out knowledge. Their knowledge being rounded out, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, order was brought into their families. Their families being in order, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy."

You can read more about Confucius and other Easter Philosophies at: Eastern Philosophy and Meditation

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