I remember reading the spin of the Simplicity of Pooh, and the cowardly bravery of Piglet, oh no to far long ago. How author Benjamin Hoff, used the children’s tale of A.A Milne to explain Taoism in simple terms where everything could be relatable. Pooh’s adventures likened to those of a Wandering Daoist, or that of a Dharma bum, was a peek into applied Taoism, that stepped out of the poetry and the complicated aphorisms, piths, and koans. Even though quite profound in simplicity but dense in meaning, the were nothing to Pooh’s bumbling that one could relate to on a daily basis.
Venturing away from Macrocosmic to Microcosmic thinking of previous post, this one will center more on Confucius, and his main thread of the Golden mean. As one begins the path of self cultivation, through awareness of their own nature, one starts to notice a difference in previous attitudes, and how one relates to others in this difference. Awareness creates new ways of relation, and this creates new opportunities for practice of the path, and/or obstacles to break old habits.
In his maxim “Liken to oneself is to use one’s own measure. What you do not desire for yourself do not do to others, what you dislike in others, reject yourself, what you desire in others seek in yourself…”
This reflexive negation and affirmation of the golden mean was central to his teaching, and is what is called, 恕, shu. It is a heartfelt likening, as the character displays a heart, a woman and a mouth. Xun zi, one of his students, broke down shu on three levels of relation, that between Lord and Servant, between Parents and Sons, and then between Elder brothers and Younger. When one corrects these relations, then one is able to correct the self, he explains.
From this weaves the central theme of morality in Confucius.
In this frame of moralistic thinking that could be seen in Christianity through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’s word’s “Do onto others as onto yourself.” strikes very clear the similarity. It is in this stirring out of thought and into action, that virtue begins to develop. This is when Piglet, harnesses his courage, breaks out of his nervousness, and stands up and decides to act, instead of wishy washing around. This is 徳, De- Virtue.
Virtue takes on many forms as it develops, but most of all it begins in 仁, Ren. Benevolence. This is the major Confucian virtue, Benevolence. Ren, is the impulse to act for the betterment of others, this is what separates the Noble man, the Jun zi, from the common man. It is from Benevolence, that then all the other virtues come from, ie Faithfulness, Righteousness, and Chastity.
However, in order to use Ren, and to keep Shu in mind, one must be centered and authentic, which is 忠, Zhong. “Concern issues right from the center of your being, this is called Zhong.” This whole hearted devotion to practice, and maintaining self truth is what keeps everything together, in any situation.