Tag Archives: Confucius on ritual

Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

forging your own path

季氏旅於泰山,子謂冉有曰:「女弗能救與?」對曰:「不能。」子曰:「嗚呼!曾謂泰山不如林放乎?」
The Ji Family was setting off to carry out a sacrifice on Mount Tai. Confucius said to Ran Qiu: “Can you not stop this?” Ran Qiu replied: “I cannot.” Confucius said: “This is outrageous! Can it really be true that the spirit of Mount Tai has even less knowledge of ritual than Lin Fang?” (1) (2)

Leadership means forging your own path rather than following in the footsteps of others. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the essence of ritual

essence of ritual

林放問禮之本。子曰:「大哉問!禮,與其奢也,寧儉;喪,與其易也,寧戚。」
Lin Fang asked: “What is the essence of ritual?” Confucius said: “That’s a big question! For festive ceremonies, simplicity is better than extravagance; for funerals, genuine grief is better than excessive formality.” (1) (2)

There’s no need to lavish huge amounts of money on a fancy event just to impress other people. Keep things simple. Authenticity beats lavishness. Moderation trumps ostentation. Speak from your heart – not from your wallet. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the essence of ritual

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

your choice

三家者以雍徹。子曰:「『相維辟公,天子穆穆』,奚取於三家之堂?」
When the Three Families had the Yong ode performed while the ceremonial vessels were being removed at the end of their ancestral sacrifices, Confucius said: “‘The lords are in attendance, the son of heaven sits solemnly on his throne.’ How can such words be used in the halls of the Three Families?” (1) (2)

Do you follow a traditional career path, perhaps taking a few liberties on the way to the top to show your importance? Or do you create your own path so that you can make your own rules? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

eight rows of dancers

孔子謂季氏,「八佾舞於庭,是可忍也,孰不可忍也?」
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?” (1)

The higher you rise in your career, the easier it is to let your growing influence, power, and status go to your head and decide that the normal rules and conventions no longer apply to you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to ritual

adhering to the rites

It’s good to be back in the peace and quiet of the Lincolnshire Fens. I’m hoping that the fog that has gathered in my head will lift so that I can forge ahead with my Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. This has stalled over the last few weeks thanks – I like to tell myself at least – a heavy working schedule.

One of the central concepts that Confucius promoted in his teachings is the importance of adhering to ritual (禮/lǐ) in building up your character. By repeatedly carrying out even the most mundane of actions such as eating or greeting another person in the proper manner, you build up a strong internal muscle memory that enables you to behave in the most appropriate way without even having to think about what you are doing. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to ritual

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice

cultural appropriation

子曰:「非其鬼而祭之,諂也。見義不為,無勇也。」
Confucius said: “Sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors is presumptuous. Doing nothing when rightness demands action is cowardice.” (1)

Cultural appropriation: this is the phrase that immediately sprang to mind when I read Confucius’s opening comment in the final chapter of Book 2 of The Analects. And yes, “sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors” is indeed “presumptuous.” The best way to respect another culture is to learn as much as you can about it and only take part in its traditional ceremonies and festivities when you are invited to do so. There’s no excuse for insensitivity. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like carving and polishing stones

like carving and polishing stones

子貢曰:「貧而無諂,富而無驕,何如?」子曰:「可也,未若貧而樂,富而好禮者也。」子貢曰:「詩云:『如切如磋,如琢如磨』,其斯之謂與?」子曰:「賜也,始可與言詩已矣,告諸往而知來者。」
Zigong said: “’Poor but not subservient; wealthy but not arrogant.’ What do you think of that?” Confucius said: “Not bad, but this would be better still: ‘Poor but content; wealthy but loves ritual.’” Zigong said: “In the Book of Songs it is said: ‘Like carving and polishing stones, like cutting and grinding gems.’ Is this not the same idea?” Confucius said: “Wonderful, Zigong! At last I can discuss the Book of Songs with you! Based on what I’ve already said, you can work out what’s coming next!” (1) (2)

“Like carving and polishing stones, like cutting and grinding gems.” This line from the ancient Book of Songs that Zigong  quotes to Confucius during their bout of poetic banter provides the perfect metaphor for the process of self-cultivation. The modern-day equivalent would be, I suppose, “sharpening the saw.” Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like carving and polishing stones