The Analects of Confucius Presentation: Ren

The Analects of Confucius is a collection of brief quotations, conversation, and anecdotes from the life of Confucius. It represents many beliefs and principles of Confucius. Among these beliefs and moral philosophy, I decide to look into one of the important concepts from the Analects, ‘ren‘.

Ren‘ can be seen as the core value of the Analects. In the Analects, Confucius has mentioned “Ren” for 110 times. It is the fundamental conception. However, when people translate ‘ren’ into English, people regarded it as ‘goodness’ or ‘humanity’. Without a doubt, these are some of the meaning of ‘ren’, but I think these word can not fully represent the meaning of it. Although ren has been described as one of the moral standards for people, ‘ren’ can be related to people closely. Confucius explained the meanings of ‘ren’ to his disciples and he has different explanations in the Analects. Basically, ‘ren’ was described in three levels. The first level of ren is that people realness of people. If people change their core value, they become just a part of the world and society, then every system and etiquette lost their meaning. This level of ‘run’ seems to be easy to achieve, Confucius believe this is the basic element to create a good society. The second level of ‘ren’ is the direction of people. In order to achieve the second level of ‘ren’, people has to choose the right direction. It is the standard for Confucius to teach and guide his disciples too. According to the quality of his disciples, Confucius  give them different advice. The third level of ‘ren’, it is the final stage of achieving ren. It is a level of pursuing perfect personality. During this process, people cannot only care about themselves, they also need to care about others. And it is the most difficult process to achieve ‘ren’. So Confucius saw ‘ren’ as the moral standard and target for people to obtain.

‘Ren’ as a fundamental concept of The Analetic, it run through the whole book and also the Confucius’s belief system, As it involves so many aspect, the analysis of ‘ren’ is a good way to understand Analetic.

Confucius’s Analects Presentation:

The Analects is a compilation of quotations and ideals from Confucius that show his beliefs.  The main focus is Confucius’s moral code and principles.  He uses three central concepts to express his moral philosophies.  They are ren (goodness or humanity), li (ritual), and xiao (respect for one’s parents).  I will be focusing on xiao.

The direct translation xiao is “respect for one’s parents.”  Xiao also extends to respect of elders and ancestors.  This concept is a main theme of the Analects as Confucius always looks to idealized past to model current behavior.  Using ideas of the past is the utmost respect to ancestors and elders as their ideas continue to live on and are carried out by the new generations.  Therefore, xiao is a huge focal point of the Analects. 

There are many specific quotes in the Analects that use xiao either indirectly or directly to show Confucius’s philosophy and ideals.  My analysis of xiao will show how essential this one concept is to the Analects as a whole and Confucius’s way of thinking.

Panel Presentation

For my panel presentation this week, I decided to focus on the law of karma in The Bhagavad-gita and The Jataka. Both of these texts are fundamental texts of Hinduism. Hinduism is more philosophically driven than religiously driven. These texts outline the way to live life through moral and ethical guidance. Karma is the belief that one’s actions in life are carried from one lifetime to the next lifetime. Your deeds will not go unrewarded or unpunished. Hindu’s believe that actions have consequences when they are performed with selfish expectations and that the ideal is to perform a duty without expectations of rewards. To do your duty just because it is the right thing to do. Bhagavad-gita and The Jataka both examine actions and intentions and dictate a moral life.

In The Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is faced with a personal and ethical crisis. The text asks the question, “What is a just war, and when can the use of armed conflict to resolve a political stalemate be justified?” Arjuna does not want to fight because he does not want to create bloodshed for his family. From my prior knowledge of Hinduism I would have thought that there was no justification for war but this is where the karma law gets confusing. Arjuna has dharmic duty to fight in service to God. Even though Arjuna does not want to fight, God tells Arjuna that it is his duty. Arjuna must correct the balance of good and evil. By going into battle Arjuna acts selflessly. Murder would generally be considered an unethical action and would carry over into one’s next life but because Arjuna fulfilled his life’s duty, his dharma, he will not be punished for these actions.

The Jataka tales share basic lessons to show how to live a moral life. These stories are easily understood and relatable. They show how good deeds do not go unrewarded. Every act that one performs has a good or bad moral effect on lifetimes to come. The cumulative good and evil from a person’s lifetime of deeds supposedly attach to his or her atman, inner self or soul. When they are reborn, their atman follows them into another life. Pursuing goodness will follow you in the cycle of lifetimes. In these stories, Buddah presents goodness in different character forms to enlighten you on how to be morally correct and what karma will be good in the next life. In The Golden Goose, The Boddhisatta was present in the form of the golden goose who left his family behind. He helped his family by giving them the gift of golden feathers from time to time. His wife, out of greed and acting against her daughter’s wishes, plucked all the feathers, fearing that the goose would never return. The goose never returned. The lesson from the story was to be grateful for what you have and never be greedy for what others have to offer. The father good karmic actions allowed him to come back in the form of a goose and watch over his family. The act of greed resulted in no more golden feathers. As the titles suggest, The Hare’s Self-Sacrifice and The Monkey’s Heroic Self Sacrifice are stories involving self sacrifice. In The Hare’s Self-Sacrifice, Boddhisatta was a hare in the woods. The hare sacrificed himself to be food for the beggars. This sacrifice was rewarded by Sakka by giving him the sign of a hare on the moon. This folktale teaches us that goodness will be rewarded. Self sacrifice is a deed of selflessness that will be rewarded. Folk narratives let you choose what is right and wrong. The Jakata stories educate the Hindu people on ethics.

These stories in The Bhagavad-gita and The Jataka give guidance to people following the religion of Hinduism. Both texts tell you how to live a moral life. The stories are easy to understand and identify with and teach people what is morally ethical. They teach the value of karma and how good deeds will carry from one lifetime to the next. For that reason, many of the stories involve self sacrifice in your current life and how that will give you a better life in your next incarnation. Although motivation is important with karma, so doing a good deed for future reward is not considered a pure motivation. The stories are important tools in teaching Hindu principles and leading to an ethical, moral lifetime.

The Jataka Tales

The Jataka Tales are a set of 547 narratives recounted by the Buddha himself in which he recollects his past 550 lives in different beings. The Buddha himself is a noble animal that performs selfless deeds in order to reach the ideal of bodhisattva’s “six perfections”; selfless giving to others; moral clarity and firmness; patience/forbearance; meditation; wisdom; and the effort in pursuing the right goals.

The author of The Jataka Tales transformed folk narratives to suit their religious and didactic purposes by adding some sort of morality to the tales that align with the six perfections the Buddha is trying to accomplish. Such examples include the tale of “The Golden Goose” and its theme of greed. The Buddha dies (in his human form) and is reincarnated as a golden goose with the consciousness of his past life. Feeling bad for his family that have now been living off of neighbors since his death, he seeks his family and offers to give them a feather at a time in order for them to sustain themselves for the rest of their life. The family accepts, but the mother later disagrees, stating that “there’s no trusting animals” [1304] and that she plans on collecting all of the gooses feathers at once. She does that and keeps the goose in a barrel, but the goose does not regrow his original golden feathers, instead regrowing the usual white ones as the only catch was that his feathers would be forever golden as long as his feathers are not plucked out against his will. Thus the narrative resembles a folk tale but with a sense of morality such as greed being the thematic presence throughout the tale that follows the Buddha throughout his journey of one of his lives.

Assignment for W, 3/29

Dear All,

As I mentioned in class last Wednesday, there won’t be an assignment on the blog this week.  In lieu of a blog post, I expect that you will read the assigned literature carefully and come prepared to discuss it (see excerpts from Confucius’ Analects, the three Indian Jataka Tales, and excepts from the Bhagavad Gita, an exceptional epic poem and sacred text). Please read attentively and take notes on the literature so that we may have a richer discussion.  Jinwei, Andrew, and Annie will lead the discussion on Wednesday with their respective presentations. Their posts are anticipated early in the coming week.

All best,
Christina Christoforatou

Confucius’s Analects

Confucius believed that rite is a standard that people should follow. By learning and following rite, people can have better hehaviour which can also benefit the society. For the individual, rite is essential for people to growth and become better. In Book VIII, “The Master said, ‘Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity; ‘”Confucius believe that appropriate rules is important. And the rite of the past is exactly the appropriate rules that Confucius believes.  As Confucius was living in a period that full of wars, the rite is a target that people can aim at.  He also believes that enforcing law is not right way to teach people. “The Master said, ‘If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame.'” Because he believes that by teaching people how to behave, people will have their own and correct standard, then people can have always remind themselves what do do and what should not do. That is the world that Confucius pursuing.

Confucius’s Analects

Confucius’s values have been shaped into the societies of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Confucius is against the corruption in the government and explains his ideas on how a government should act. Confucius’s idea to avoid the political chaos is to “returning to the moral values of the venerable founders of the Zhou Dynasty, King Wu and Wen and the Duke of Zhou, paid homage to tradition but was also visionary, even revolutionary.” In Book VII it can be seen that Confucius learns his knowledge from the past and respected his leaders. This is seen when he states, “I transmit, I invent nothing. I trust and love the past” (7.1). In the same book he shares that even if you don’t have much you can still be happy. He goes on to state that, “Riches and honors without justice are to me as fleeting clouds”(7.16). It is important to find happiness within ones self. Social roles and rituals gave people a meaningful place in society.

Confucius believes that anyone that wants to become humane can become human. In Book XII Lord Ji Kang ask Confucius about the government and if it were good to kill off the bad. Confucius replied with “You are here to govern, what is there to kill? If you desire what is good, the people will be good. The moral power of the gentleman is wind, the moral power of the common man is grass. Under the wind, the grass must bend” (12.19). It is part of the governments job to make the bad people good. The reason the people are bad is because the government is doing a bad job. Confucius sees the good in everyone and believes that if one is taught the right things then they will become a person with values. It is up to the government to lead the people to good. Society will prevail if more people do good and make meaning to social life.

Confucius Analects

Confucianism looks to the “rites” and the past as models for present behavior as a lot can be learned from the past in order to shape the people of the present, whether they enforce the good characteristics of the people from the past or learn from the evil doings of past governance. Confucius’ admired the Zhou rulers during the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 B.C.E.) as they abolished the Shang Dynasty and instituted a “new government that took pride in showing concern for the people and enforcing wise policies.” [1331] Confucius criticized the uneasy and unstable state of China due in part to the lords that showcased their “irreverent behavior” toward the Zhou rulers. “He who by revising the old knows the new, is fit to be a teacher” [1335] implies to the fact that knowing about the past and its successes or failures will enable a person to either enforce the good characteristics or discontinue and amend the bad characteristics in order to align them with the core values of Confucianism such as humanity, ritual, respect for their elders, and efficient action.

Confucius’ beliefs stem from his teachings as he focuses more on teaching about humanity, respect, rituals, and the goodness and empathy of people. Instead of enforcing more laws and punishment, the core objective of the people should be raising the younger generation to be empathetic and benevolent to one another. “Barbarians who have rulers are inferior to the various nations of China who are without” [1335] solidifies that a nation should encompass itself into raising good people instead of wasting its time enforcing laws onto people without moral values. In order to be a great leader, one must encompass itself into supporting the good people and never support any crooked people, as that is how a leader will “win the hearts of the people.” [1335] He also explains that covetous people are above the crooked and that they should never stoop to the level of unmoral and unjust values of those people. Good people will get robbed by bad people and one cannot kill bad people to support the good, as “gentlemen” are there to govern and teach, not to punish and put down. He further states that he could put a plan in action in one year that would help any nation out for the upcoming three years and that if a true generous and virtuous king arose, it would take a generation for their people to prevail explains that the teachings must be understood by everyone in that nation in order for it to flourish truly. In order for the teachings to be successful, one must “behave with honor, and, being sent on a mission to the four corners of the world, does not bring disgrace to his lord, deserves to be called a gentlemen.” [1342]

Confucius’s Analects

Confucius strongly emphasizes the use of rituals and idealized past to shape present behavior, because people should learn from the past to make the present better.  In Book II, he says, “He who by revising the old knows the new, is fit to be a teacher.”(2.11)  Confucius is stating that the best educators are the ones that use the past to influence the present.  He also states in Book VII that his ideals are from the past. “I transmit, I invent nothing. I trust and love the past.”(7.1)

Good people who cultivate benevolence are more beneficial towards creating a good society than creating more laws and giving harsher punishments.  In Book XII, Confucius deems these laws useless if the people don’t even trust the government.  “But without the trust of the people, no government can stand.”(12.7)  In Book III, Confucius states that these laws don’t make a difference if the people are not good.  “Barbarians who have rulers are inferior to the various nations of China who are without.”(3.5)  In the end, the laws and police don’t matter if the people are not cultivating benevolence.

The Jataka

Jataka collect many stories  that contain the buddist philosophy. Many of stories may not seem to be relate to Buddhisim directly and also because there are different aurthor , the style of those stories can be different. But the content of these story always expressing the similar ideas. These ideas are not complex so people can realize the ideas behind these stories. The stories of Jataka may use people and animals to be the charaters.

In the story of The Golden Goose, an example of greed is shown. The mother was supposed to get plenty of help from the Buddha, however, she became greedy and tried to get more from the golden goose. In the end, she gets nothing from it. This is a story that express the Buddhist idea that people should not be greedy.In the other stories,“The Hare’s Self-Sacrifice” and “The Monkey’s Heroic Self-Sacrifice”, they both discuss about sacrifice. These stories are not linked to Buddhism directly, but sacrifice of self interest in order to help others is the ideas behind these stories, which is the Buddhist ideas.