A philosophy founded in the fifth century B.C., Confucianism promotes morality, social order and proper action. Its founder, Confucius, was a thinker and philosopher who sought to codify and prescribe moral behavior to promote peace, justice and brotherhood. Confucianism dictates that people act toward their good nature and work from within their social order rather than acting for their own accord. Violence, or any unmerciful act, has no place in a Confucian way of life. While many philosophies do not tolerate violence, Confucianism does not allow it, not only from a moral but also a practical standpointl.
An important tenet of Confucius' thought is the maintenance of social order. Every human interaction is bound by certain prescribed relationships, such as the ruler and the ruled, father and son, or husband and wife. According to Confucius, people should act toward one another based on their prescribed roles. Violence has no place in these interactions, since each one can promote harmony and peace. Although violence, according to Confucius, may be a justified punishment or predetermined outcome, random acts of violence from passion or anger can never be justified, as they violate humanity's built-in social order and result in disharmony.
The concept of Ren is crucial to Confucianism. Ren, which is sometimes called the "Golden Rule," promotes benevolence, altruism and the maintenance of social relationships. This idea of boundless compassion -- that you should treat others as you want to be treated -- is central to Confucian philosophy. General benevolence and altruism are in staunch discord with all forms of violence outside self-defense or protection of family. To do good and act properly toward all humankind is key to happiness and proper functioning of society, says Confucius. When focusing on love and mercy rather than violence, a person becomes happier and contributes to society.
In addition to Ren, Confucianism promotes the concept of Li, or the proper way to behave. Li dictates rules for individual behavior as well as the social order. Confucianism grew from old Chinese beliefs, one of which placed a high value on propriety. No matter the situation, even if between a beggar and a king, all people should act properly toward one another. "Proper" action means that you must restrain your emotions and do what is right rather than giving in to passion or anger. When people act properly, violence can and should be avoided for the common good. To adhere to Li, a person must be mindful of how he appears, or the public "face." No matter how a person feels on the inside, according to Li, he must obey authority and adhere to social norms for greater unity.
The overarching and clear goal of Confucianism is achieving peace and tranquility among all people. By following the teachings of Confucius, society could function properly, avoiding violence and negativity at all costs without sacrificing health or well-being. The call for proper action and benevolence extends to all people, as Confucius showed that leaders and kings should act in the same way to encourage those below them to do the same. Without widespread correct behavior, violence and disharmony would follow.
- University of Idaho: Confucius, Gandhi, and the Aesthetics of Virtue
- Harper College: The Geography of Confucianism
- Stanford School of Medicine: Confucianism Beliefs and Practices
- Patheos Library: Suffering and the Problem of Evil
- Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs: Confucianism on Peace and Violence
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