On a Religious Teacher

Usually, this blog does not delve into religious topics. However, today is an exception.

You know the teaching: Don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you. And you know the ethics from this same Teacher as well. You know his emphasis on family values, honoring the father and the mother, respecting the elders. Some of his greatest teaching was on reciprocity, the idea that you repay kindness for kindness, that you never let some good thing done for you go unthanked or unacknowledged or unreciprocated. Virtue, the Teacher always said, came from within. The things that came from the heart were more important than the things a person might put into the body.

One of the interesting teaching techniques used by this man was how he used the culture and ethical construct of his day to teach what was good and right in kind. Contrary to what he was accused of later on, he wasn’t trying to subvert anything. In fact, the opposite was true. He was trying to reinforce established and longstanding virtuous mores that his society had simply forgotten or ignored over the decades. In that sense there wasn’t a lot that was radical about his teaching. The Teacher spoke often of the ancient Mandate of Heaven, calling on his listeners and disciples to choose to act and to hold themselves to a higher standard than the world normally did.

You know that he was not highborn and that the father died when the Teacher was young man. That death left the Teacher’s family economically compromised and him to be raised in poverty by the young widowed mother. If you studied your religious history at all, you’ll know that the teacher was closely tied to the political philosophies of his day whether he himself wanted that or not. He called out the political and religious leaders of that time for their hypocrisy, their greed, and their lack of care for the people. He recognized that they were not good shepherds over their flocks.

Later, of course, his teachings would be codified and a strict set of rules would be mandated by his followers in the years after his death. We don’t know for sure, but it’s a good guess that any mandate of his teachings would have rubbed him the wrong way since he felt that goodness is within us, innate, born in our hearts, and that, for the truly righteous person, there are no rules because none are needed.

Yes, this great Teacher is one you know. He was born over 500 years before Jesus. His family name was Kong, and he was known as Kong Fuzi, or Master (Teacher) Kong.

That name became Latinized as Confucius.

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