Zeng Zi agreed. After the Master had left, the other students asked, “What is the explanation for this?” Zeng Zi answered, “The Master’s teachings are all about honesty and forbearance.” Putting in one’s best effort is to be honest in one’s undertakings; giving in to others is to show forbearance. He wrote
The Great Learning in which the
Three Programs and Eight Articles are advocated as a method for acquiring knowledge. He was also the author of
The Classic of Filial Piety. Confucius said, “When one’s parents are alive, serve them respectfully. When they are dead, arrange for their funerals and perform memorials in accordance with the rites. This is called filial piety.” It is also said: “If one does not care for one’s parents when they are alive or bury them when they are dead, one is considered unfilial.” He also emphasized the ethical concept of arranging for the funeral rites of one’s parents and conducting memorials for them. Later generations honored Zeng Zi as the “Ancestral Sage”.
Zeng Zi agreed. When Zeng Zi heard this, he understood immediately and agreed with the Master. His understanding was analogous to Venerable Kashyapa smiling when Shakyamuni Buddha held up a flower. He understood this dharma door. However, the other students did not understand. Therefore, after Confucius had left, they asked Zeng Zi, “What is the meaning of the Master’s words?”
Zeng Zi answered, “The Master’s teachings are all about loyalty and forgiveness.” The principles expounded by the Master are to loyally carry out one’s duty and to be forgiving of others. That is to say: “Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you.” To loyally do one’s duty means to try one’s best, to fulfill one’s responsibilities; to forgive means to be magnanimous towards others. This is an explanation of the principles of loyalty and forgiveness.
Zeng Zi wrote The Great Learning, which talks about the Three Guidelines and Eight Articles. The Three Guidelines are “to radiate with virtue, to motivate people to cultivate virtue, and to aspire to ultimate goodness.” The first refers to enhancing one’s virtuous conduct; the second means to have exemplary conduct that others can emulate; and the third means to cultivate in the best environment until the ultimate goodness is achieved.
The Eight Articles are “to get rid of material desires, to acquire knowledge, to be sincere, to rectify one’s thoughts, to cultivate oneself, to put one’s family in order, to govern the country, and to bring peace to the world.” You should
get rid of your selfish material desires. It is said, “We are limited by our temperament, and covered up by our material desires.” If you have desires for material things, your wisdom will be covered up. If you have no such desires, then your wisdom will naturally surface.
Why is it that we human beings lack wisdom? It is because our immense material desires have concealed our wisdom. If you are not stifled by your cravings or restricted by material desires, that means you have cut off your material desires.
To acquire knowledge is to eliminate your selfish desires so that your wisdom will manifest and broaden.
To be sincere is to be careful in all undertakings. Then you have to
rectify your thoughts. If you harbor deviant knowledge and deviant views, that will not do. It is only when you have rectified your thoughts that you will be able to cultivate. With self-cultivation, you can then
put your family in order. Having put your family in order, you will know how
to govern the country. In this way, you will be able
to bring peace to the world.
He was also the author of The Classic of Filial Piety. Confucius said, “When one’s parents are alive, serve them respectfully. When they are dead, arrange for their funerals and perform memorials in accordance with the rites.” This is called filial piety. If one does not take care of one’s parents when they are alive or bury them when they are dead, one is considered unfilial.” When our parents are alive, we must serve them in accord with propriety. After they have passed away, we must arrange for their funerals according to the rites. Thereafter, on New Year’s Day and other festivals, we must accordingly observe and pay respect to them without being perfunctory. One is unfilial if one does not take care of one’s parents when they are alive or bury them when they are dead. Therefore, he advocated the principle of
“establishing sincere human relationships and fulfilling one’s role and responsibilities.” The phrase “arranging for the funeral rites of one’s parents and conducting memorials for them” means that when our parents are on the verge of death, we must treat the occasion seriously and respectfully as it is a very important matter. Because Zeng Zi promoted these ideas of Confucius, on New Year’s Day and during festivals and memorials, we must remember our parents’ voices, smiling countenances and virtuous conduct. That was why the general populace honored Zeng Zi as the “Ancestral Sage”. He continued the transmission of the orthodox teachings of Confucianism.
To be continued