Contemplating the Analects of Confucius

Confucius, in his analects, becomes the archetypal wise old man, with white beard and aging face. In it, he believed himself to be nothing more than a carrier of knowledge instead of an inventor of knowledge and put great emphasis on study. One of his biggest goals was to reinvigorate the “mandate of heaven” which he believed would unify the world and bestow peace and prosperity on the people. Along with this, his golden rule was a anecdote of great importance: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” With great subtlety and emphasis on learning and growing, Confucius left behind a legacy that has had a lasting impact on the world for thousands of years. This impact and his teachings are crystallized in his Analects, by far the most famous expression of Chinese thought and philosophy.
What appealed to me about his Analects were the epigrams and subtle verses, which seemed particularly clever to me. Inside lines that seem like simplistic approaches to teaching, reveal wisdom after contemplation.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
In lines such as these, the tone of a wise man comes through in vivid color, illustrating both the action and its consequences, then asserting the consequence itself at the end. In keeping with the book of changes, or I-Ching, he says, “The only constant is change.” This is an adage that can be seen abundantly in daily life, all around us, as the seasons change, our moods change, our nails and hair grows on our face, and how people age and die, which is similar to what Krishna said to Arjuna in the Gita; it is inevitable that life will change, just like The Buddha said, and that change will bring about disappointment because people look for permanent sources of happiness and they don’t exist.
Another line that I enjoyed in his Analects because of its echoing of the Gita and Qur’an and some of the virtues found within them is, “It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can give its full development to his nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other men.”
His is a philosophy with wisdom set at the highest peak of human ability and even says that sincerity is the beginning and ending of all things and that without sincerity there would be nothing.
“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.”
We all make mistakes and we’re all human. In all the philosophies and religions produced by mankind, within is the promise of shelter from the harsh rain of life, a way by which a meaning can be with a keen eye understood and comprehended. Confucius, like others around him and others that came after him, profoundly affected the thought of thousands of generations because of his humility before life and his respect of it. And in following his path, one has the possibility of being at peace.

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