During the Spring and Autumn period [722
– 484 b.c.] of Chinese history, in 551 b.c., a great sage was
born. He was Confucius. Throughout his life, he tirelessly
propagated the virtues of humaneness and righteousness, and the
doctrines of filiality, fraternal respect, loyalty, and
trustworthiness. But instead of being welcomed, he was rejected
everywhere he went. Even though he constantly faced setbacks, he
never altered his principles of education and continued
promoting the way of peace and harmony.
Confucius was a great educator. He spared
no effort in promoting the idea of equal and universal
education. He was "never weary of teaching and never tired of
learning." Instead of composing new texts, he explained the
ancient books in a faithful and devoted fashion. In his later
years, he edited the Book of Odes, compiled the rites and music,
and wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals. The Book of Odes, the
Book of History, the Book of Changes, the Book of Rites, and the
Spring and Autumn Annals are now known as the Five Classics.
Confucius had three thousand students. Among these there
were seventy-two who mastered the six skills of rites, music, archery,
charioteering, writing, and mathematics. Rites refer to the proper ceremonial
rituals for weddings, funerals, and sacrificial offerings. One has to master all
six skills before one can be considered a perfect person.
Confucius taught each person according to his or her
individual potential, and he taught by example. His students can be divided into
four main categories [according to their area of strength]: 1. Virtue,
represented by Yan Hui and Min Ziqian 2. Speech, represented by Zi Gong and Zai
Wo 3. Politics, represented by Zi Lu and Ran You 4. Literature, represented by
Zi Xia and Zi You
After Confucius' death, his students split into two
sects. Zeng Zi advocated the propagation of the Way (Tao); Mencius represented
this school, which was later recognized as the orthodoxy. Zi Xia advocated the
propagation of classics, and that school was represented by Xun Zi. The school
advocating the propagation of classics prevailed during the Han, Tang and Qing
dynasties, while the school advocating the propagation of the Way prevailed
during the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties.
The noumena and phenomena in the world are all
interrelated. In China, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have aided each other.
Confucianism is like an elementary school for young children, Taoism is like a
secondary school, and Buddhism is like a university. The principles of these
three religions are related. Students in the elementary school don't understand
the subjects taught at the secondary school, but university students know the
curriculums of both the elementary and secondary schools.
Confucianism teaches the principles of being a person and
developing a wholesome character. Taoism places half its
emphasis on establishing a good character and half on the
cultivation of transcendental principles. For that reason Taoist
priests are like laypeople in that they do not shave their
heads; however, they do dress like the hermits of ancient times.
Buddhist monks, on the other hand, shave their hair and beard,
wear clothes of dark and somber colors, and don't care about
their external appearance. They maintain the appearance of
Bhikshus and Bhikshunis and always wear their sashes. Buddhism
teaches people to cultivate the principles of world-transcending
Dharma. Is there a Buddhadharma outside of worldly dharmas? No.
As long as you truly recognize worldly dharmas and are not
deluded by them, just that is the Buddhadharma.
Some people have suggested combining the three religions into
one. It is said, Like the red blossom, the white root, and the
green leaf of a lotus plant, The three religions originate from
one family. This expresses how Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism
are interrelated. The roots of Buddhism, the foundation upon
which faith arises, lie within Confucianism. One has to study,
understand the principles, and learn how to be a person first,
and then one can cultivate in accord with the Dharma. It is
said, "Even though there are many expedient doors, the nature at
the source is nondual." Students of Buddhism should understand