Tag Archives: Confucius on religion

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the here-and-now

the here-and-now

季路問事鬼神。子曰:「未能事人,焉能事鬼?」「敢問死?」曰:「未知生,焉知死?」
Zilu asked how to serve the spirits and gods. Confucius said: “If you’re not yet able to serve other people, how are you able to serve the spirits?” Zilu said: “May I ask about death?” Confucius said: “If you don’t understand life yet, how can you understand death?” (1) (2) (3)

Why waste precious time and energy worrying about things you can’t control when you have more than enough on your plate to deal with? Better to get the most out of your life by focusing on the here-and-now. That’s the only way to prepare for whatever happens when it comes to an end. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the here-and-now

Leadership lessons from Confucius: pestilent spirits and ghosts

pestilent spirits and ghosts

鄉人儺,朝服而立於阼階。
When the villagers carried out the ceremony to exorcize pestilent spirits and ghosts, he put on his court dress and stood on the eastern steps. (1) (2) (3)

Marvel at the color and spectacle of the ritual. Immerse yourself in the rhythm and sound of the music. Breathe in the fragrance of the incense. Lose yourself in the cacophony of drumbeats and the grace and power of the dancing. Celebrate the cleansing of the pestilent spirits and ghosts from the earth and air around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: pestilent spirits and ghosts

Leadership lessons from Confucius: permission to pray

permission to pray

子疾病,子路請禱。子曰:「有諸?」子路對曰:「有之。誄曰:『禱爾于上下神祗』」子曰:「丘之禱久矣。」 (1)
When Confucius fell seriously ill, Zilu asked permission to pray. Confucius said: “Does such a practice exist?” Zilu replied: “Certainly. The liturgy says: ‘We pray to the spirits from above and the spirits from below.’” Confucius said: “If that’s the case, I’ve been praying for myself for a long time now.”

Is it appropriate to offer to pray for someone if they don’t share your religious beliefs? No doubt Zilu was so worried about his master’s condition that he was willing to try anything that might help him to stay alive, but Confucius clearly thought not and decided stuck to his own secular principles. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: permission to pray

Leadership lessons from Confucius: supernatural phenomena

supernatural phenomena

子不語怪力亂神。
Confucius never talked of strange phenomena, feats of strength, disorder, or spirits. (1)

We all have limited time. How to remain focused on what’s important when there are so many distractions out there? It’s a lot more fun to read about all the weird stuff that’s happening in the world than dealing with the tiresome issues we are faced with every day. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: supernatural phenomena

Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

wisdom and goodness

樊遲問知。子曰:「務民之義,敬鬼神而遠之,可謂知矣。」問仁。曰:「仁者先難而後獲,可謂仁矣。
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A good person is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.” (1) (2)

Wisdom isn’t an abstract concept. It means figuring out what needs be done and then going ahead and doing it. It requires that you use your knowledge and insight for the benefit of everyone – not just on behalf of a select few of friends and associates. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: better pray to the kitchen god?

kitchen god

王孫賈問曰:「與其媚於奧,寧媚於灶,何謂也?」子曰:「不然,獲罪於天,吾所禱也。
Wangsun Jia asked: “What does this saying mean: ‘Better pray to the kitchen god rather than the household gods’?” Confucius said: “This is nonsense. If you sin against heaven, you have no god you can pray to.”

Be polite and friendly with everyone you come into contact with – not just people you think will be able to help you climb the career ladder. Flattering the boss, or indeed the kitchen god, might earn you a few brownie points, but your long-term success depends on your ability to work effectively with everybody. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: better pray to the kitchen god?