Religion and Philosophy in Ancient India and China
China and India practiced a number of religious and philosophical systems before the communist revolution. Taoism and Confucianism, systems that had originated long before the Christian era, traditionally provided ethical guides to the proper behavior of everyone.
Confucianism in China
Confucianism sought to teach on proper behavior and morality in society. According to the book of Confucianism in China, Confucius defined various relationships that existed in a typical society setting. These were the husband-wife, parent-children, and the ruler-subject relationships. Each person had a role to play, and the relationships placed obligations on their shoulders that would promote harmony in society. The government and subjects could enjoy stability as well.
In India, believers used epics to achieve religious inspiration while passing across important teachings on relationships and values like love and harmony. The two largest well-known epics include the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Ramayana focuses more on the duties among different relations through the story of Rama (Kurup 24). The epic portrays the ideal characters in society and defines their perfect roles. Some ideal portrayed characters include an ideal father, son, servant, or king. Other general human values and concepts also get further insights in this book.
However, the Mahabharata tells the story of Sakuntala, the wife of Dushyanta and the mother of Emperor Bharata. Just like the Ramayana, the narrative critically addresses the matters of love, loyalty, duty and nature of the families in the ancient Indian society from a similar perspective. Both narratives are the historical epics that give a clear scenario of battle between evil and legitimate in society. They also outline why such virtues as loyalty, cultured living, the sense of sacrifice and heroism are important in the growth of society.
Similarities in the two epics appear in the fact that they both focus on the role of woman in the ancient society. The writers seem to have wanted to liberate women from social harassment and gender discrimination. The society undermined the woman’s dignity and forced them to belong fully to their husbands. In her book, Debabrata emphasizes on the relationship between gender equality and poverty in support of the lessons from Sakuntala (Gokhale 54). Therefore, both these works tried to empower women and protect their basic rights.
Rich with symbolism and guidance to perfecting oneself, the Doctrine of the Mean forms a chapter in the rites of classics, which is attributed to Zisi, the only grandson of Confucius (Littlejohn 40). Following the Mean, one is on a path of duty and must never leave it. A person in a superior position should be cautious, gentle tutor and displays no contempt for his/her inferiors. To put it simply, such individual represents moderation, objectivity, rectitude, honesty, sincerity, and propriety. The guiding norm is that one should never act in excess.
The Great Learning
The Great Learning comes from a chapter of the classic rites as well, which formed one of the five classics. It is developed from many authors familiarizing others with the needs and beliefs of society at that time. It contains a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and ten commentary chapters accredited to one of Confucius disciples, named Zengzi. Though some critics disliked the Great Learning terming stress on scholarship and not action, it became an important schoolbook and obligatory imperial examinations’ reading because of its great lessons (Legge 22).
There are several lessons that can be derived from the Great Learning. These lessons help define the following decrees.
One must rest and reflect to attain peace of mind. Calmness and reflection of individuals allows them to discover the way. It is derived from one of the eight stages, which emphasize balancing of the mind. Focus of the mind allows the body to achieve a lot from the senses.
Identifying the significant things and setting priorities plays an important role in building the morality of individual. Those, brought up in the environment that values moral behavior, tend to build strong upright beliefs, an essential aspect in societal growth. The Confucian teachings encourage this as a result.
One must maintain harmony and order at all times. Relationships put in order and defined affair sets a direct and clear association among people and, thus, reduces unnecessary conflicts. In order to achieve this, people need to cultivate a lot of knowledge and understand themselves, their needs, and the impact of their actions on others. It is derived from one of the stages of Great Learning, which talks about aligning one’s house.
Every individual is responsible for finding knowledge through self-cultivating oneself and learning despite the status in society. This contributes to personal success, and individuals broaden their thinking and general knowledge through learning. It is observed through focusing on one of the three guidelines that talk about making ones “bright virtue” brilliant.
Education must receive utmost treatment from all individuals. Through education, one develops knowledge and skills. These trickle down from one generation to another. In order to achieve balance, one should endeavor to learn various aspects both within their environments and outside. This puts emphasis on understanding, an aspect found among the eight stages as well.
Therefore, it is evident that the ancient religion and philosophy in India and China had a high respect for virtues. People learned to live according to them, and, thus, the aim was to create society that lived in harmony. For instance, the Chinese have followed Confucianism for more than two millennia. Nowadays, it has a deep influence on the spiritual and political life in China and beyond its borders (Littlejohn 21).
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