CHINA'S THREE GREAT RELIGIONS AND THEIR TEACHERS
Frank H. Marvin 32°
The teaching of Confucius has had an immense influence on China for 2,500 years, though he can hardly be said to have founded either a religion or a philosophy. His doctrizes were devoted to practical morality and to the duties of man in relation to his fellow men, based upon his own wisdom and that derived by him from the teachings of antiquity. He taught the great principles of morality, which were founded on family affection and duty, teaching kings that they were to treat their subjects as children and that their subjects were to treat their kings as parents. He was the exponent of the doctrine of reverence - reverence for God, for parents, for the past and its traditions and accomplishments - and, above all, he taught the Golden Rule that "one should not do to others what he does not wish to be done unto him."
Examples of his moral maxims, which have greatly influenced the Chinese people, are the following:
- To conduct the government of a state there must be religious attention to business, and good faith, economy of expenditures and love of the people." It would seem that, if every executive and legislator of our federal and state governments would constantly keep this motto before them and faithfully strive to follow the same, it would be greatly conducive to the happiness and welfare of our own people.
- To see what is right and not do it, is want of courage.
- When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.
- Always, and in everything, let there be reverence.
- What I do not wish others to do to me, that also I wish not to do to them.
- Filial piety is the root of virtue. It commences with the service of parents. It proceeds to the service of the ruler. It is completed by the establishment of character.
- Worship as though the Deity were present.
- Grieve not that men know not you; grieve that you know not men.
Confucius was very careful to avoid certain subjects, such as the capacities and faculties of dead spirits, and he was very adroit and ingenious in side-stepping the answers to questions in relation thereto. As an example, when asked about death, he answered, "While you do not know life, how can you know about death?" When he was asked whether the dead had knowledge of the service rendered to them by the living, he replied, "If I were to say the dead have such knowledge, filial sons and dutiful grandsons would injure their substance in paying the last offices to the departed; and, if I were to say that the dead have no such knowledge, I am afraid that unfilial sons would leave their parents unburied."
The system of Confucius differs from Christianity in that the latter has greater completeness. Jesus fulfills the Confucian reverence for the past by adding hope for the future, by adding faith in God as well as faith in man, and giving to his followers a hope of immortal life, prompted by a sense of the fatherly presence of God. In short, both Confucianism and Christianity inculcate and instill in their teachings the Brotherhood of Man-one of the two great principles of Masonry-but it is really Christianity and not Confucianism which also advocates the other great principle of Masonry, to wit, the Fatherhood of God.
As a philosophy, Taoism meant the revolution of the heavens about the earth, which produced all the phenomena on earth. Tao stood for the creative force or cosmic energy. This Philosophy dealt with the age-long problem of "being and becoming." Laotse appears to have taught the "Philosophy of the Good Enough." This thought is, "Why forever strive after the best, which, theoretically, is never obtainable? Just accept the good enough and be contented and happy." Taoism teaches simplicity, frugality and the love of the soil (the good earth). Lao-tse did not advocate the laborious educational system of Confucius. He believed in innocence and resignment, and preferred a simple culture to wealth. The Taoists have generally been pacifists to a certain degree, and favored small political units, and have been against centralized politics, and against all forms of slavery and legal dictation.
The whole teaching of Lao-tse has been considered by many to be vague and unsatisfactory, but he mmde a great advance over the teachers who had preceded him by laying down the doctrine, "that ultimately good would gain the victory over evil, and by insisting that good should be returned for evil as the sure way to overcome it."
As a demonstration of these teachings, Taoism has the following rules:
- To those who are good to me, I am good. And to those who are not good to me, I am also good. Thus all get to be good."
- To those who are sincere with me, I am sincere, and to those who are not sincere, I am also sincere. Thus all get to be sincere."
- Recompense injury with kindness.
- They rejoice not, if men revere them. They are not angered, if men insult them. But only those are capable of this who have passed into the eternal harmony of God.
In conclusion, it may well be said that the striving for Nirvana in Buddhism through each successive possessor of the same soul leading a clean, wholesome life to overcome the faults prompted by desire; the Golden Rule of Confucianism, "Do not do to others what you would not like others to do to you," and the doctrine of Taoism of "returning good for evil" demonstrate that these three great religions of China are good moral ones, even though they may not, in our way of thinking, be as complete as our Christian religion, which embraces the principle of the Fatherhood of God as well as the principle of the Brotherhood of Man.