Taj Nabi Khan
CONFUCIUS, also known as Zhongi or Kongqui (551-479 BC) was one of the most eminent Chinese philosophers whose ideas have influenced the civilization of the East Asia for more than two millennia. It is believed that he wholeheartedly devoted his entire life to the cause of learning and teaching with a holistic vision for transforming social landscape of the region. For him, the ultimate purpose of all human endeavors was public service and overall improvement of the society. Though during his lifetime, Confucius has faced political frustration and self-imposed exile (12 years). But nonetheless, he got popularity as a man of vision due to his extensive travelling and preaching of his ideas. Later, his devoted disciples have compiled and composed the ‘sayings and quotes’ of Confucius and his contemporaries in the form of analects (20 booklets). Consequently, his unique philosophy of life has become all-encompassing way of living and thinking.
Confucius was both a man of contemplation and action — a rare combination who was leading by example. His philosophical tradition has injected values and discipline to social order by transforming individual into a more productive and humble component of family, community and society at large. The Confucius’s teachings have upheld the intact family structure supreme for individual’s grooming through rituals, ceremonies, reciprocity of gifts, filial piety (xiao), and celebrations. He has recollected and unlocked the ancient collective Chinese wisdom from indigenous cultural heritage spanning over thousands of years. He has come up with practical solutions from day-to-day problems to the entire system of governance. The Confucius’s philosophy is more prescriptive than descriptive in nature due to short and condensed quotations packed with wisdom and vision. It was also his strong sense of history that he foresaw himself as the conservationist responsible for the social norms and cultural values of China to keep the cultural identity of one of the oldest civilizations alive.
According to Confucianism, the human race is teachable and improvable through personal and communal endeavors. The highest human attainment is to acquire the qualities of a true nobleman. And it is only possible through persistence efforts of self-improving, self-cultivation, self-knowledge, self-realization, character-building and continuous social interaction to first transform the world from within. Though Confucianism is not recognized as an established religion but it has deeply influenced both the spiritual and political life of the East Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Although it is sometimes viewed as a philosophy and sometimes a religion on the ground that it carries the elements of a worldview, political ideology, scholarly tradition and a way of life. The down-to-earth and humane philosophy of Confucianism has also embodied some of the most common elements of shared values of the entire human race beyond cultural, geographical and linguistic boundaries. Thus his reputation as man of vision and mission has spread beyond the borders of China to the neighbouring countries. His famous six arts of rituals, music, calligraphy, archery, chariot-riding and mathematics have been followed by the Chinese people for centuries.
The Analects is the large collection of ancient Chinese book of wise quotes referred to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his contemporaries. The book is composed by his disciples and followers after his death (497BC). The book covers a wide range of ethical concepts and moral code such as ren (“benevolence”), junzi (“the superior man”), tian (“heaven”), zhongyong (“doctrine of the mean”), li (“proper conduct”), and zhengming (“adjustment to names”). The last inculcates the notion that all phases of a person’s conduct should correspond to the true significance of “names”. It also strongly upheld the pursuit of virtue as one of the supreme goals of life. According to Confucius, following the truth may not necessarily bring the immediate success or material gains but surely it would have long lasting and powerful spiritual rewards. Similarly, the noble by doings was given more preference over the noble by blood. Though the Chinese term junzi (nobleman) means the son of prince but in the Analects, the word has a different connotation as it refers to the person who had developed in the Way (dao) and become an advanced human being by attaining the highest level by practicing self-cultivation, justice, filial piety and honesty. The ‘Lun yu’, the ‘Analects’, has been as widely read in China throughout the ages as the Bible in the West which is also the only reliable record of Confucius’s teachings. The philosophy polishes the inner personality by bringing about all kinds of virtuosity: benevolence, altruism, humaneness, goodness, wisdom, reverence, courtesy, love, sincerity and honesty.
—The writer is senior journalist based in Islamabad and often contributes to the national Press.