Thursday, 12 August 2010

Religion in Ancient Japan

Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ, or K'ung-fu-tzu, lit. "Master Kong", 551–478 BC),widely followed in Japan. It is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought that has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Asia. It might be considered a state religion of some East Asian countries, because of governmental promotion of Confucian philosophies.
Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Japan was influenced by Confucianism in a different way.
In Confucianism, human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi.
Humanity is core in Confucianism. A simple way to appreciate Confucian thought is to consider it as being based on varying levels of honesty, and a simple way to understand Confucian thought is to examine the world by using the logic of humanity. In practice, the elements of Confucianism accumulated over time. There is classical Wuchang (五常) consisting of five elements: Ren (, Humanity), Yi (, Righteousness), Li (, Ritual), Zhi (, Knowledge), Xin (, Integrity), and there is also classical Sizi (四字) with four elements: Zhong (, Loyalty), Xiao (, Filial piety), Jie (, Continency), Yi (, Righteousness). There are still many other elements, such as Cheng (, honesty), Shu (, kindness and forgiveness), Lian (, honesty and cleanness), Chi (, shame, judge and sense of right and wrong), Yong (, bravery), Wen (, kind and gentle), Liang (, good, kindhearted), Gong (, respectful, reverent), Jian(, frugal), Rang (, modestly, self-effacing). Among all elements, Ren (Humanity) and Yi (Righteousness) are fundamental. Sometimes morality is interpreted as the phantom of Humanity and RighteousnessHumanity is core in Confucianism. A simple way to appreciate Confucian thought is to consider it as being based on varying levels of honesty, and a simple way to understand Confucian thought is to examine the world by using the logic of humanity. In practice, the elements of Confucianism accumulated over time. There is classical Wuchang (五常) consisting of five elements: Ren (, Humanity), Yi (, Righteousness), Li (, Ritual), Zhi (, Knowledge), Xin (, Integrity), and there is also classical Sizi (四字) with four elements: Zhong (, Loyalty), Xiao (, Filial piety), Jie (, Continency), Yi (, Righteousness). There are still many other elements, such as Cheng (, honesty), Shu (, kindness and forgiveness), Lian (, honesty and cleanness), Chi (, shame, judge and sense of right and wrong), Yong (, bravery), Wen (, kind and gentle), Liang (, good, kindhearted), Gong (, respectful, reverent), Jian(, frugal), Rang (, modestly, self-effacing). Among all elements, Ren (Humanity) and Yi (Righteousness) are fundamental. Sometimes morality is interpreted as the phantom of Humanity and Righteousness
Ritual and filial piety are indeed the ways in which one should act towards others, but from an underlying attitude of humaneness. Confucius' concept of humaneness (Chinese: ; pinyin: rén) is probably best expressed in the Confucian version of the Ethic of reciprocity, or the Golden Rule: "do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
Confucius never stated whether man was born good or evil, noting that 'By nature men are similar; by practice men are wide apart' - implying that whether good or bad, Confucius must have perceived all men to be born with intrinsic similarities, but that man is conditioned and influenced by study and practise. Xunzi's opinion is that men originally just want what they instinctively want despite positive or negative results it may bring, so cultivation is needed. In Mencius' view, all men are born to share goodness such as compassion and good heart, although they may become wicked. The Three Character Classic begins with "People at birth, are naturally good (kind-hearted)", with root from Mencius' idea. All the views eventually lead to recognize the importance of human education and cultivation.
Rén also has a political dimension. If the ruler lacks rén, Confucianism holds, it will be difficult if not impossible for his subjects to behave humanely. Rén is the basis of Confucian political theory: it presupposes an autocratic ruler, exhorted to refrain from acting inhumanely towards his subjects. An inhumane ruler runs the risk of losing the "Mandate of Heaven", the right to rule. A ruler lacking such a mandate need not be obeyed. But a ruler who reigns humanely and takes care of the people is to be obeyed strictly, for the benevolence of his dominion shows that he has been mandated by heaven. Confucius himself had little to say on the will of the people, but his leading follower Mencius did state on one occasion that the people's opinion on certain weighty matters should be considered.
In Confucianism the term "ritual" was soon extended to include secular ceremonial behaviour, and eventually referred also to the propriety or politeness which colours everyday life. Rituals were codified and treated as a comprehensive system of norms. Confucius himself tried to revive the etiquette of earlier dynasties. After his death, people regarded him as a great authority on ritual behaviours.
It is important to note that "ritual" has developed a specialized meaning in Confucianism, as opposed to its usual religious meanings. In Confucianism, the acts of everyday life are considered ritual. Rituals are not necessarily regimented or arbitrary practices, but the routines that people often engage in, knowingly or unknowingly, during the normal course of their lives. Shaping the rituals in a way that leads to a content and healthy society, and to content and healthy people, is one purpose of Confucian philosophy.
Translations from the 17th century to the present have varied widely. Comparison of these many sources is needed for a true "general consensus" of what message Confucius meant to imply.
Confucius argued that under law, external authorities administer punishments after illegal actions, so people generally behave well without understanding reasons why they should; whereas with ritual, patterns of behavior are internalized and exert their influence before actions are taken, so people behave properly because they fear shame and want to avoid losing face. In this sense, "rite" is an ideal form of social norm.
The Chinese character for "rites", or "ritual", previously had the religious meaning of "sacrifice". Its Confucian meaning ranges from politeness and propriety to the understanding of each person's correct place in society. Externally, ritual is used to distinguish between people; their usage allows people to know at all times who is the younger and who the elder, who is the guest and who the host and so forth. Internally, rites indicate to people their duty amongst others and what to expect from them.
Internalization is the main process in ritual. Formalized behavior becomes progressively internalized, desires are channeled and personal cultivation becomes the mark of social correctness. Though this idea conflicts with the common saying that "the cowl does not make the monk," in Confucianism sincerity is what enables behavior to be absorbed by individuals. Obeying ritual with sincerity makes ritual the most powerful way to cultivate oneself:
Respectfulness, without the Rites, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the Rites, become timidity; boldness, without the Rites, becomes insubordination; straightforwardness, without the Rites, becomes rudeness.
Ritual can be seen as a means to find the balance between opposing qualities that might otherwise lead to conflict. It divides people into categories, and builds hierarchical relationships through protocols and ceremonies, assigning everyone a place in society and a proper form of behavior. Music, which seems to have played a significant role in Confucius' life, is given as an exception, as it transcends such boundaries and "unifies the hearts".
Although the Analects heavily promote the rites, Confucius himself often behaved other than in accord with them.
Loyalty is the equivalent of filial piety on a different plane. It is particularly relevant for the social class to which most of Confucius' students belonged, because the only way for an ambitious young scholar to make his way in the Confucian Chinese world was to enter a ruler's civil service. Like filial piety, however, loyalty was often subverted by the autocratic regimes of China. Confucius had advocated a sensitivity to the realpolitik of the class relations in his time; he did not propose that "might makes right", but that a superior who had received the "Mandate of Heaven" (see below) should be obeyed because of his moral rectitude.
In later ages, however, emphasis was placed more on the obligations of the ruled to the ruler, and less on the ruler's obligations to the ruled.
Loyalty was also an extension of one's duties to friends, family, and spouse. Loyalty to one's family came first, then to one's spouse, then to one's ruler, and lastly to one's friends. Loyalty was considered one of the greater human virtues.
Confucius also realized that loyalty and filial piety can potentially conflict.
Filial piety
Main article: Filial piety
"Filial piety" is considered among the greatest of virtues and must be shown towards both the living and the dead (including even remote ancestors). The term "filial" (meaning "of a child") characterizes the respect that a child, originally a son, should show to his parents. This relationship was extended by analogy to a series of five relationships (Chinese: 五倫; pinyin: wǔlún):
The Five Bonds
Ruler to Ruled
Father to Son
Husband to Wife
Elder Brother to Younger Brother
Friend to Friend
Specific duties were prescribed to each of the participants in these sets of relationships. Such duties were also extended to the dead, where the living stood as sons to their deceased family. This led to the veneration of ancestors. The only relationship where respect for elders wasn't stressed was the Friend to Friend relationship. In all other relationships, high reverence was held for elders.
The idea of Filial piety influenced the Chinese legal system: a criminal would be punished more harshly if the culprit had committed the crime against a parent, while fathers often exercised enormous power over their children. It's differentiated in other relationships much as the same. At the time it lean overly to parent side. Now filial piety is also built into law. People have responsibility to provide for their elder parents according to law.
The main source of our knowledge of the importance of filial piety is The Book of Filial Piety, a work attributed to Confucius and his son but almost certainly written in the 3rd century BCE. The Analects, the main source of the Confucianism of Confucius, actually has little to say on the matter of filial piety and some sources believe the concept was focused on later thinkers as a response to Mohism.
Filial piety has continued to play a central role in Confucian thinking to the present day.
Relationships are central to Confucianism. Particular duties arise from one's particular situation in relation to others. The individual stands simultaneously in several different relationships with different people: as a junior in relation to parents and elders, and as a senior in relation to younger siblings, students, and others. While juniors are considered in Confucianism to owe their seniors reverence, seniors also have duties of benevolence and concern toward juniors. This theme of mutuality is prevalent in East Asian cultures even to this day.
Social harmony—the great goal of Confucianism—therefore results in part from every individual knowing his or her place in the social order, and playing his or her part well. When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, by which he meant proper administration so as to bring social harmony, Confucius replied:
There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son
Mencius says: "When being a child, yearn for and love your parents; when growing mature, yearn for and love your lassie; when having wife and child(ren), yearn for and love your wife and child(ren); when being an official (or a staffer), yearn for and love your sovereign (and/or boss)."
The term jūnz is crucial to classical Confucianism. Confucianism exhorts all people to strive for the ideal of a "gentleman" or "perfect man". A succinct description of the "perfect man" is one who "combines the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman." In modern times the masculine translation in English is also traditional and is still frequently used. Elitism was bound up with the concept, and gentlemen were expected to act as moral guides to the rest of society.
They were to:
cultivate themselves morally;
show filial piety and loyalty where these are due;
cultivate humanity, or benevolence.
The great exemplar of the perfect gentleman is Confucius himself. Perhaps the tragedy of his life was that he was never awarded the high official position which he desired, from which he wished to demonstrate the general well-being that would ensue if humane persons ruled and administered the state.
The opposite of the Jūnzǐ was the Xiorén . The character in this context means petty in mind and heart, narrowly self-interested, greedy, superficial, or materialistic.
Rectification of names
Main article: Rectification of Names
Confucius believed that social disorder often stemmed from failure to perceive, understand, and deal with reality. Fundamentally, then, social disorder can stem from the failure to call things by their proper names, and his solution to this was Zhèngmíng .He gave an explanation of zhengming to one of his disciples.
Zi-lu said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?"
The Master replied, "What is necessary to rectify names."
"So! indeed!" said Zi-lu. "You are wide off the mark! Why must there be such rectification?"
The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.
If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish.
When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.
When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."
Xun Zi chapter "On the Rectification of Names" claims the ancient sage-kings chose names that directly corresponded with actualities , but later generations confused terminology, coined new nomenclature, and thus could no longer distinguish right from wrong.
Another key Confucian concept is that in order to govern others one must first govern oneself. When developed sufficiently, the king's personal virtue spreads beneficent influence throughout the kingdom. This idea is developed further in the Great Learning, and is tightly linked with the Taoist concept of wu wei the less the king does, the more gets done. By being the "calm center" around which the kingdom turns, the king allows everything to function smoothly and avoids having to tamper with the individual parts of the whole.
This idea may be traced back to early Chinese shamanistic beliefs, such as the king being the axle between the sky, human beings, and the Earth. The very Chinese character for "king" shows the three levels of the universe, united by a single line. Another complementary view is that this idea may have been used by ministers and counselors to deter aristocratic whims that would otherwise be to the detriment of the state's people.
The main basis of his teachings was to seek knowledge, study, and become a better person.
Although Confucius claimed that he never invented anything but was only transmitting ancient knowledge he did produce a number of new ideas. Many European and American admirers such as Voltaire and H. G. Creel point to the revolutionary idea of replacing nobility of blood with nobility of virtue. Jūnz , which originally signified the younger, non-inheriting, offspring of a noble, became, in Confucius' work, an epithet having much the same meaning and evolution as the English "gentleman". A virtuous plebeian who cultivates his qualities can be a "gentleman", while a shameless son of the king is only a "small man". That he admitted students of different classes as disciples is a clear demonstration that he fought against the feudal structures that defined pre-imperial Chinese society.
Another new idea, that of meritocracy, led to the introduction of the Imperial examination system in China. This system allowed anyone who passed an examination to become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honour to the whole family. The state Chinese Imperial examination system seems to have been started in 165 BC, when certain candidates for public office were called to the Chinese capital for examination of their moral excellence by the emperor. Over the following centuries the system grew until finally almost anyone who wished to become an official had to prove his worth by passing written government examinations.
His achievement was the setting up of a school that produced statesmen with a strong sense of patriotism and duty, known as Rujia . During the Warring States Period and the early Han Dynasty, China grew greatly and the need arose for a solid and centralized corporation of government officers able to read and write administrative papers. As a result, Confucianism was promoted by the emperor and the men its doctrines produced became an effective counter to the remaining feudal aristocrats who threatened the unity of the imperial state.
Since this time Confucianism has been used as a kind of "state religion", with authoritarianism, a kind of legitimism, paternalism, and submission to authority used as political tools to rule China. Most Chinese emperors used a mix of Legalism and Confucianism as their ruling doctrine, often with the latter embellishing the former.
The works of Confucius were translated into European languages through the agency of Jesuit scholars stationed in China. Mateo Rici started to report on the thoughts of Confucius, and father Prosparo Intorceta published the life and works of Confucius into Latin in 1687. It is thought that such works had considerable importance on European thinkers of the period, particularly among the Deists and other philosophical groups of the Enlightenment who were interested by the integration of the system of morality of Confucius into Western civilization.
For many years since the era of Confucius, there have generated various critiques against Confucianism, including Laozi's comment and Mozi's critique. Lu Xun also criticised Confucianism heavily for shaping Chinese people into the state they became in the late Qing Dynasty: this is greatly portrayed through his works A Madman's Diary and The True Story of Ah Q.
In modern times, waves of critique along with vilification against Confucianism arose. Taiping Rebellion, May Fourth Movement and Cultural Revolution are some upsurges of those waves in China. Taiping Rebellers described many sages in Confucianism as well as gods in Taoism and Buddhism as bogie. Marxians during Cultural Revolution described Confucius as the general representative of class of slave owners. Numerous opinions and interpretations of Confucianism of which many are actually opposed by Confucianism were invented.
Confucianism has a related principle idea called "He Er Bu Tong" ( peaceful but different or harmonious while diversified). Although people have differences in opinions, interests, preferences, profiles..., they should first keep peace, and people should live in harmony with each other and meanwhile keep their diversity. There are still other critique related Confucian ideas, e.g. If what others say is right and your fault is true, change it. If not, be careful of committing that kind of fault , Learn others' virtues, and reflect on your own weak points when you see others' .
The ideals of Confucianism also maintains a negative view of women in saying that women have no dignity and less human rights than men and are supposed to be at home, fulfilling the roles of wife and mother.
There is debate about the classification of Confucianism as a religion or a philosophy. Many attributes common among religions—such as ancestor worship, ritual, and sacrifice—apply to the practice of Confucianism; however, the religious features found in Confucian texts can be traced to traditional non-Confucian Chinese beliefs (chinese folk religion). The position adopted by some is that Confucianism is a moral science or philosophy. The problem clearly depends on how one defines religion. Since the 1970s professors and scholars have attempted to assess the religious status of Confucianism without assuming a definition based on the Western model (for example, Frederick Streng's definition, "a means of ultimate transformation"). Under such a definition Confucianism can legitimately be considered a religious tradition.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth has argued that Confucianism was a religion and elaborates further in attempting to explain through particular references that the religion in its orginal pristine form was a monotheistic religion divinely revealed to Confucious who he describes as a Prophet of God

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