Monthly Archives: September 2001

Kung fu tse – The Master

 

      When the whole world is focused on Osama and the likes of him, lets talk about someone more sensible. Lets talk about Kung fu Tse (or Confucius as he is more popularly known).

 

We have all heard quotes by the great Chinese Philosopher. Lets find out more about the man, his times and his philosophy.

Confucius was born in the state of Lu in 551 BC. At the age of 19 he entered the services of a royal family as a manager of parks. At the age of 34 he went to the capital city of Lo-yang to understand the customs of the Chou dynasty. When he was 35, Zhao( the prince of Lu) led his country to war, was routed and fled to the neighboring country of Qi. In the disorder following the battle, Confucius followed Zhao. Zhao frequently came to him for advice, but when other nobles began plotting against Confucius’ position, Confucius returned to Lu. But conditions there were no better than before, and Confucius retired from public life to concentrate on teaching and studying.

      Confucius returned to public life at the age of 50. He was made minister of Justice in the province of Lu. At the age of 56 he became the Chief Minister of Lu. Lu became very prosperous under his administration.

The neighbouring states became jealous and thought of an idea to corrupt the prince of Lu. They send him a “gift” of 50 dancing girls. The prince became so engrossed in the pleasures that he forgot the kingdom and his wise chief minister Confucius. Confucius was disgusted by the prince and his ways and he left the kingdom .

      He travelled for 12 years with his disciples. He was rarely tolerated at Royal courts and was jailed frequently. The kings did not like his views. Finally at the age of 67 he returned to Lu. He spent the last 5 years of his life teaching and writing. He died at 72.

Now lets look at his philosophy and his influence.

After his death his students decided to collect his teachings. But Confucius was soon forgotten by most common people. The revival of his ideas had to wait for a 100 years after his death. A young man named Mang became interested in his teachings and decided to revive his philosphy . He collected Confucius’ writings in a set of books called Analects. Mang popularised Confucius’ teachings and elevated his philosophy to the level of religion. Confucius came to be regarded as the first sage of China.

About 150 years after the death of Mang , the Emperor of China ordered the burning of all books preaching Confucius’ philosophy.

But the people loved the teachings of the great master and when the emperor died Confucius’ philosophy became more popular than ever.

The Han dynasty (206 BC – 25 AD) adopted his philosophy as the moral doctrine of the state. Temples were made for the worship of Confucius and Confuciusinm became a religion.

Lets now talk about what Confucius taught. We will do this by looking at the words that Confucius used.

Li means profit , gain , advantage

Yi means right conduct , morality.

The master(Confucius) said :

” The superior man understands Yi, the little man understand only Li”

Confucius himself had a simple moral and political teaching: to love others; to honor one’s parents; to do what is right instead of what is of advantage; to practice “reciprocity,” i.e. “don’t do to others what you would not want for yourself”;

Confucius does not lay any stress on self denial. The master says:

” j`i yu l`i, er l`i ren ” which word by word means :

 

self desire establish , also establish others.

( ie do good to yourself , and do good to others too )

Confucius, though he later came to be regarded as a sage, never talked about god. He only preached philosophy and knowledge:

 

Chi-lu asked how the spirits of the dead and gods should be served. The Master said, “You are not able to serve to serve man.

How can you serve the spirits?”  Analects [XI:12, p. 107]

 

Confucius philosophy is given in detail at the following site .

It is very interesting:   http://www.friesian.com/confuci.htm

 

Finally a collection of Confucius quotes :

 

To learn and from time to time to apply what one has learned

— isn’t that a pleasure?

 

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.

 

I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand.

 

He who learns but does not think is lost!

He who thinks but does not learn is a great danger.

 

Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others.

 

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.

 

The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.

 

What the superior  man seeks is in himself. What the little man seeks is in others.