Above, the text discussed how we should deal with matters that our parents like and dislike, respectively. This presents a great challenge and difficulty. In order to practice filial piety, we must have not only patience, courage, and determination, but also wisdom. Otherwise, in a moment of carelessness, we may put ourselves in danger or else get caught in an unreasonable or illegal situation. Then, even though our intent was to be filial, we end up being unfilial.
What do I mean by this? I am referring to a situation in which our parents like something very difficult to obtain, or else they dislike something which is very difficult to get rid of. In order to please them, we may risk our lives in all kinds of dangerous situations and even resort to criminal acts such as theft, robbery, arson, murder, or treason. On a small scale, we may endanger our own lives, on a larger scale, we may destroy our family and country. Not only will our parents be grieved and worried, but others will ridicule them for not teaching their child well and for lacking virtue. We will have brought upon them a disgrace that will last for tens of thousands of years!
Confucius said, "Our parents' only worry is that we may fall sick." Our parents are concerned if our bodies, minds, or lives come to harm in any way Therefore, by taking care of ourselves, we are being. filial to our
Confucius instructed Zeng Zi "Not daring to harm our bodies, hair, and skin, which our parents gave us, is the beginning of
filial piety. Establishing ourselves, practicing the Way, and developing a good reputation so that our parents will be honored is the fulfillment of
filial piety." That is to say, staying healthy both physically and mentally so that our parents will not worry about us is only the first step of being filial. To practice Filial piety to perfection, we must develop a good character and bring benefit to the society and nation, thus shedding glory on our parents.
If this standard is too high, at the very least we must refrain from evil deeds and unkind actions, or else we will be a disgrace to our parents. The
Holy Biblesays, "Love is unselfish...it is to refrain from shameful deeds." During the Spring and Autumn Period [722-481 B.C.] in China, Lord Xian of the State of Jin was infatuated with his concubine Li Ji, who wanted him to do away with his eldest son (and his heir) Shen Sheng and make her own son heir to the throne. Once when Shen Sheng sent an offering of meat to his father, Li ji secretly put poison in the meat and then accused the eldest son of trying to kill his father and usurp the throne. Lord Xian, without looking into the matter carefully, was so furious he wanted to kill his own son. Shen Sheng thought: "My father would not be happy without Li ji. If he wants me to die, how could I go against his wish?" Then, without defending himself against the unjust accusation, he committed suicide.
Now, you would think such a person, who killed himself in order to comply with his father's wishes would be praised as a filial child in history, right? No. He only received the posthumous title of Prince Gong (respect), and Confucius'
judgment was that while he knew how to be obedient, he didn't understand the real meaning of
filial piety. He was unfilial not only because he injured his own body and took his own life, but he put his father in a situation of being seen as unrighteous. Others scolded his father for lacking wisdom and compassion; thus he was being truly
Therefore, whether we are practicing joyful giving or the giving of fearlessness to our parents, we must have wisdom. We should base ourselves on the rule of not injuring our bodies or ruining our virtue. We should not be unfilial, but on the other hand we should not go overboard and be foolish in our
filial piety. The Venerable Master often taught people, "As people we should love our country, love our family, and cherish our own bodies and lives." These are the words of a sage who has profoundly understood and truly practiced the way of filial piety.