Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cultivating Humanity: Empathy and Loyalty

Our own quality and the quality of society 'goes up' every time we choose to emphasize humanity, the central virtue of Confucianism, the quality of human beings, over all other concerns. This quality of human beings this 'Humanity' in Confucianism, Humanity is the enlivening, life-giving spirit of the individual and through extension, society. Moreover, humanity is the root of all other virtues including true faithfulness, loyalty to one's true self and empathy with the deep humanity of others. It is the essential oneness through which can more deeply understand the depth of all things, including other people as with empathy.
"According to (Confucius') thinking, humanity (jen) is the key virtue or central idea, equivalent to oneness," (Yi Wu, Chinese Philosophical Terms, p. 4)
and "Confucius said, 'Ts'an, my way is to perform all actions in (oneness)' Ts'an Tzu said 'Yes.'
After Confucius went out, the disciples asked him, 'What did he say?'
Ts'an Tzu answered, 'The way of our master is only loyalty (chung) and empathy (shu)'(Wu, Analects IV, 15)."
Confucius made a continuous effort to, perform all actions in oneness, to deepen his understanding and practice of humanity. Confucius performed all actions according to one principle because he knew this to be the most important work of any human being. He understood it as his destiny to manifest humanity in his own unique time and position. When we make an effort to increase our understanding and practice of humanity we perform this most important possible work possible, in the most important way possible; we fill our own life position with the quality of humanity.
Deepening and heightening this sense of our own humanity we can better deepen and heighten our understanding of others, our ability to empathize.
For both our relationship with ourselves and with others this results in an ability to simplify, prioritize, and harmonize.
Confucius made one simple decision, one continuous cultivation that took all his effort; to understand humnaity and thus to be truly humane. Better understanding and acting through humanity, for Confucius, meant understanding and acting through the most important and enlivening principle that we share with both Heaven and Earth. This humanity, our own life giving ability, is indeed the source of all other life-giving, 'spiritualizing' virtues including true empathy. With a shallow understanding and practice of humanity, we will only be able to empathize (or project) with shallow and superficial aspects of ourselves and others. When when continuously make an effort to 'go up' in our understanding we manifest our own humanity and empathize with the deepest and most beneficial aspect of others; their own humanity.
Through this oneness of action and effort we take heart that no matter the outside circumstance, we are doing our best, our part to heighten, enhance and increase the spiritual life, the quality of society through loyalty to our truest selves and empathy with others.

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