"When the Great Way prevails, every
person is a part of society, and society belongs to everyone.
The virtuous and the able are chosen for public office.
Trustworthiness and friendliness are valued by all. People not
only love their own parents and children, but love the parents
and children of others as well. The elderly live their last
years in happiness; able-bodied adults are usefully employed;
children are reared properly. Widowers, widows, orphans, the
childless aged, the handicapped and the ailing are well cared
for. All men share their social responsibilities, and all women
have their respective roles. Natural resources and commodities
are not wasted or appropriated for selfish ends. People want to
contribute their strength and ability to the society for public
good, not for private gain. Deception and cheating cannot occur
in such a society. Robbery, larceny, rebellions, and other
crimes all disappear. Gates and doors are not locked; no one
even thinks of stealing. This is a world where harmony,
equality, and justice prevail."
This "Essay on the Achievement of Universal Harmony, Equality,
and Justice through the Use of Propriety" describes the ideal
society of Confucius. If this world of harmony, equality, and
justice is realized, peace will prevail under Heaven. Wars will
disappear, and everyone will be friendly toward each other.
People will be well fed and clothed, live peacefully, and be
content with their occupations. That was Confucius' political
strategy. Unfortunately, it could not be carried out because
people were all selfish and concerned with personal gain.
Through the Use of Propriety: Everyone walks on the path
of propriety, and the uses of propriety never cease. People understand
propriety. They are brought to this understanding by observing the functioning
Universal Harmony, Equality, and Justice: The whole world
becomes one family. People love each other just as they love themselves.
Cheating does not happen. People treat each other with sincerity and aid each
other in times of need. Such universal harmony, equality, and justice is the
blueprint for world peace. That was why Dr. Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yatsen) took this
passage from the Book of Rites and advocated its ideal that "every person is a
part of society, and society belongs to everyone." In short, universal harmony,
equality, and justice means that you and I are the same; there is no distinction
of you and me, me and others, right and wrong. Everyone is free, and everyone is
equal. This is the world of ultimate bliss.
When the Great Way prevails: The Great Way is the law
that everyone upholds and abides by. This great, bright way is not a private
path; you can walk on it and so can I. You cultivate your own great, bright way,
and I cultivate my own. This broad, bright, and smooth path leads straight to
the world of universal harmony, equality, and justice.
Every person is a part of society, and society belongs to
everyone: If people don't fight, seek, pursue personal advantage, or lie, and
aren't selfish or greedy, then naturally they will become just and impartial. In
that case, every person will be a part of the society which belongs to everyone.
That was the kind of democracy advocated by Confucius. He wanted to restore the
policy of giving the throne to the able, which had been practiced by Emperors
Yao and Shun.
The virtuous and the able are chosen for public office:
When we choose the leaders for our country, we must choose people with virtue,
ability, wisdom, and caliber. That kind of people will seek happiness for living
beings and work to make the country affluent and strong.
Trustworthiness and friendliness are valued by all: This
means dealing with neighboring countries in a trustworthy manner, getting along
in a friendly way, and not cheating each other. Our conduct is consistent with
our words. There is no trickery. There is harmony among people, among families,
and among countries. Everyone is concerned with justice, not with advantages and
disadvantages. At that point there naturally won't be any wars.
People not only love their own parents and children but
love parents and children of others as well: Because there is no partiality,
people can all treat one another with care and affection. Be filial not only to
your own parents, but to the parents of others as well. It is said, "Care for
your own elders and extend the same care to the elders of others." Take the same
heart that you have when serving your own parents to serve the parents of
others, and make them happy as well.
not only your own children, but the children of others as well. It is said,
"Look after your own children and extend the same concern to the children of
others." Take the heart that you have when educating your own youngsters to
educate the youth of others, and cause them to acquire knowledge as well.
elderly live their last years in happiness: There are nursing homes with good
facilities to take care of the elderly and make them happy. That way the old
people will be able to enjoy their last years without impediments, worries, or
afflictions. As a result, they will die a natural death and get reborn in the
Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Able-bodied adults are usefully employed: Young people with strong bodies must
work and serve the society, and do their best to contribute to their country.
They should not live on social welfare or unemployment benefits, because those
cause them to become a great burden to society. People should work hard and
maintain order in society, and not idly hang around causing trouble within the
Children are reared properly: Young children should be taught how to be filial
to their parents, how to be loyal to their country, and how to fulfill their
duties faithfully. Children growing up with that kind of education will surely
be fine citizens in the future.
Widowers, widows, orphans, the childless aged, the handicapped and the ailing
are well cared for: Be kind and compassionate toward, love and protect, and
sympathize with widowers, old people who have no wives; widows, old people who
have no husbands; orphans; childless seniors; the handicapped; and the ailing,
people with sickness. Those six kinds of people are the most unfortunate ones in
should live a secure and peaceful life that is free of any threats to their
psychological wellbeing. Their lives should be protected. The government should
set up various institutions to take them in and provide them with proper care.
share their social responsibilities: Men have their duties, positions, and
responsibilities. They should fulfill their obligations to their families and
their country. They cannot be lazy or become deadbeats.
All women have their respective roles: All women have
families. They should assist their husbands, teach their children, and be able
wives and good mothers. Those are the duties of women. Everyone is content with
his or her position and role, and doesn't try to change it or abuse his or her
rights. Men are in charge of external affairs and women of domestic affairs. Men
and women shouldn't fight with each other for their rights. They should each
have their respective responsibilities and rights.
Chinese prefer men and women be separated. In order to avoid suspicion, men and
women do not chat with each other. It is said, "Never bend down and put on your
shoes in the middle of a melon patch; never get up and touch your hat while
standing underneath a plum tree." In order to maintain propriety, men and women
should keep some distance between each other. It is said, "A brother and a
sister-in-law do not give things to or receive things from each other; adults
and children do not walk side by side."
Natural resources and commodities are not wasted:
Natural resources and commodities refer to all kinds of food and commodities. We
should not squander food or waste commodities. Countries with a surplus of
agricultural produce should not dump the excess in the ocean or burn it up. That
would be wasting natural resources, and it would surely bring on a retribution
in the future.
Or appropriated for selfish ends: Commodities should
be circulated, not hidden for selfish ends, hoarded for higher prices, or
monopolized. There should be fair trading of commodities. One country should
exchange its surplus goods with other countries to get the things it lacks. That
is benefiting both self and others. Isn't that a positive thing to do? If we
refuse to trade, it is the same as wasting goods or appropriating them for
People want to contribute their strength and ability to the society
for public good: The knowledge and skills we have learned are not
for our own use. Instead, they should be used to serve the people of the world.
That is called "learning in order to put to good use."
private gain: Never scheme for yourself. No matter what, you should make plans
not just for yourself, but for all living beings. We must have this spirit of
devoting ourselves to others; that is a basic principle of being a person.
of the reasons given above, people are frank with each other and do not scheme
or fight against each other either openly or covertly.
Deception and cheating cannot occur in such a society: There is no more
deception. The door of fighting and cheating is closed. Dishonest tactics to
cheat people of their money are not used. Such improper conduct no longer
Robbery, larceny, rebellion, and other crimes all disappear: To take something
by force is robbery; to steal it covertly is larceny; uprising against the
government is rebellion. When there is unfairness, such as one person having
things another one doesn't have, robbery and larceny will occur. If everyone
lives a secure and peaceful life with adequate food and clothing, robbery and
larceny will naturally disappear. People revolt when there are famines and they
don't have enough to eat. When it is impossible to make a living, nine out of
ten houses are deserted, their occupants becoming homeless wanderers. Such
misery is unspeakable. It is said, "The winner becomes the king, and the losers
become bandits," or rebels. If everyone is employed and well fed, rebels will
and doors are not locked: In this state of affairs, there are no internal
troubles and no external calamities. Everyone abides by the law. At that time no
one will take things found in the street that other people have lost. Since no
one even thinks of stealing, doors and gates are not locked at night. The
weather becomes temperate and the whole country becomes safe and peaceful.
a world where harmony, equality, and justice prevail. No one is selfish or
pursues personal advantage. Everyone is honest, just, happy, and friendly, and
so the world is peaceful.
Editor's note: This essay of the Book of Rites is required course material in
all the schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. All students of Instilling
Goodness Elementary School, Developing Virtue Secondary School, and Dharma Realm
Buddhist University must first memorize it, then deeply ponder it, and finally
put it into practice. This is the basis upon which Dharma Realm Buddhist
Association establishes its free education, reformation of social morals,
reversal of the decadent trends of society, and rectifying of people's minds, in
order to achieve a world of harmony, equality, and justice in the future.]