Filial devotion doesn’t require blind obedience to your parents – at least not the version of it that Confucius taught. In 4.18, he says that you may “gently remonstrate” with your mother and father if you think that they are not conducting themselves in the right manner. He does go on to caution, however, that if they choose to ignore your advice, you should “remain respectful” and not let “your efforts turn to resentment.” In the final analysis, maintaining harmony within the family is more important than being right.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on filial devotion
The Analects of Confucius Book 4 begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment.
Even though Confucius claims that he has never seen “anyone whose strength is insufficient” to devote themselves to goodness for a single day, he despairs that he hasn’t ever seen anyone who “truly loves goodness and truly detests evil” either. The path to goodness that he urges everyone to follow is indeed a lonely and difficult one! Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview
Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.
In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian
Boyu (伯魚) was the only son of Confucius and his wife Qiguan Shi (亓官氏), and was born in around 530 BCE, about a year of his parents’ marriage when Confucius was twenty. When Duke Zhao, the ruler of the state of Lu, sent him a prize carp to congratulate him on the birth of his son, Confucius gave the infant the formal name of Kong Li (孔鯉), which literally means “Kong-Carp.” He also gave his son the more informal name of Boyu, which literally means “Oldest-Son-Fish.”
Little is known about the details of Boyu’s childhood except that he had two younger sisters, one of whom is believed to have died at an early age. It appears, however, that the relationship between him and Confucius was a distant one, perhaps because his intellectual powers nowhere near matched those of his father. Continue reading Biography of Boyu: the only son of Confucius
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.” (1)
Better to leave your great virtue unspoken rather than attempt to signal it to others. If it’s half as strong as you think it is, they’ll pick up on it. Ostentatious displays of moral superiority are more likely to repel people than persuade them to follow your example. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority
Confucius said: “When serving your parents, you may gently remonstrate with them. If you see that they’re not following your advice, remain respectful and do not contradict them. Don’t let your efforts turn to bitterness.” (1)
How to react when your boss refuses to listen to your counsel? Do you continue to fight your corner or do you gracefully withdraw from the fray by agreeing to disagree with him? Perhaps even more importantly, do you accept his refusal to bow to your wisdom with grace or do you let his obvious stupidity and blindness consume you with anger and resentment?
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when serving your parents
What is the meaning of filial devotion? From Chapter 5 to Chapter 8 of Book 2 of the Analects, Confucius gives five different answers to the very same question to five different people. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on the meaning of filial devotion
The Analects of Confucius Book 2 begins by exploring the idea that political stability is best achieved by virtuous leadership rather than by means of force or a raft of government laws and regulations. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: overview
One of the most important themes of Book 1 of the Analects is that the focus of learning is on practical applications rather than dry academic theory. Its main objective was to ensure that a young man was inculcated with the right values and behaviors to ensure that he made a positive contribution to society by interacting positively with its other members. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on relationships
Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary values of Confucius. It is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter 8 of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子/ jūnzǐ) should: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on loyalty