Confucius is perhaps one of the most revered Real Men of
Genius in history. He lived in the
Often quoted, even in the 21st century, Confucius was a Chinese philosopher as well as a teacher, editor and politician.
Choose a job you love
and you will never have
to work a day in your life
Kongzi, you were born in what is now Shandong Province?
Yes. My father died when I was three, and I was
brought up by my mother. We had
I married at 19 and our child, Kong Li, was born about a year later.
Can you tell us something of your education?
I mastered the art of music but at the core of my education was history and literature.
You are known and respected now primarily as a philosopher, although some have said that your teachings have religious significance. I wonder if you could enlighten us on that.
What you now call Confucianism has no religious base; it is a moral system. My philosophical model does not crave forgiveness from a supposed deity or commune with some god.
I endeavoured to set a standard for the world to follow and set out what I believed should be the proper relationship between rulers and the governed. I did not corrupt my standards to the world’s requirements.
Neither do I consider that my doctrines are in any sense Chinese in character; they belong to common human wisdom.
What is the core of that philosophy?
It is simple: what you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others. Only this law is necessary. It is a foundation and principle of all the rest.
You should love your neighbour as yourself. Acknowledge benefits by the return of other benefits, but never return injuries.
Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?
What would you say to rulers and subjects?
The subject owes absolute loyalty to the ruler, and the ruler owes absolute care to the subject.
The ruler should set the example of virtue for his subjects to follow, for if those in government are virtuous, the wicked will conform to their example.
In a country well governed, poverty is something of which to be ashamed. In a country badly governed, wealth is something of which to be ashamed.
These principles also apply to other relationships, don’t they?
Of course; they apply in
any relationship. As I have already
pointed out, they apply between ruler and subject.
But they apply also between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brother and younger brother and between friend and friend.
Whereas there will be an equal relationship between husband and wife, reverence will be afforded by young to old.
The faults of a superior person are like the sun and moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.
You quite rightly received the title of Master. When do you think you gained enlightenment?
I can say that it did not
come with a blinding flash. On the
contrary, I moved towards it slowly and deliberately.
At 15 I set my heart on learning. At 30 I took my stand. At 40 I came to be free of doubts. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
How does one gain understanding?
By study. You cannot open a book without learning something.
Knowledge does not come from intuition or any form of natural understanding but from careful and assiduous study. So the first step is to find a good teacher and model his words and deeds.
The good teacher will undoubtedly be somewhat older than the pupil who will himself be thoroughly familiar with the knowledge, usages and practices that the pupil wishes to acquire.
Use every opportunity to
learn. If I am walking with two other
men, each of them will serve as my teacher.
I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.
Always think and learn. Knowledge is far more than a collection of
He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.
What do you say is required in order to achieve success?
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
It will always depend upon the size of the task. If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
Do you regard yourself as an inventor of the philosophy you preach?
No, I merely transmit that which went before. It may be that I have shaped the thinking and teaching as life went on, but that is all.
What would be your advice to young and old?
He that applies himself to virtue has three enemies which he must subdue: incontinence, when he is yet in the vigour of his age, when the blood boils in his veins; contents and disputes when he has arrived at a mature age; and covetousness when he is old.
Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as a spectator!
What are your final words on attaining wisdom?
There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.
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