(RELIGION and PHILOSOPHY in ANCIENT CHINA – continued)
After Confucius' death, his teachings were overshadowed by the scholar Mozi (Master Mo), who was born in 490 BCE – nine years after Confucius had died. Like Confucius, he was trained in classical literature. Mozi saw the Confucianists of his time as pretentious and selfish aristocrats – further evidence that Confucius did not support equality or democracy. He condemned Confucian preoccupation with religious ritual, and he ridiculed Confucianists for putting family and class above the welfare of common people.
Unlike Confucius and his followers, Mozi believed that all were equal before the lord of the heavens. He believed that the powers of heaven acted on the world and exercised a love for all humankind. He spoke of the value of the labor of common folks, and he advocated promoting people to positions of power solely on the strength of their abilities and virtues.
In place of Confucianism's dutiful love for the father of a family, Mozi supported a wider devotion: he urged people to follow heaven and reciprocate or duplicate heaven's love with their own love for all. He claimed that members of the aristocracy should love commoners and that commoners should love members of the aristocracy. Unlike the haughty Confucianists, who would lecture for only those who treated them with what they thought was proper respect, Mozi and his followers would lecture anyone willing to listen.
But in some ways, Mozi was also a man of his time. He supported monarchical rule – support for democracy in his time considered criminal. He saw evil as having originated in individualism in pre-civilized society, an individualism in which everyone had his or her own standard of what was right or wrong. Drawing from this misconception of pre-civilized society, he believed that heaven had overridden individualism by creating civilization and by giving power to the most worthy of persons, the emperor – rather than the emperor's power being derived from common people. It was an emperor's duty, claimed Mozi, to unify the standards of morality according to heaven. He believed that rulers might deviate from the wishes of heaven but that it was the duty of people to adhere to heaven's standards by exercising reason.
Disorders, Mozi believed, came from men of power understanding only trifles and not matters of great importance, most importantly heaven's universal love. Disasters such as hurricanes and torrential rains he explained as heaven's punishment for people deviating from these standards. He believed that heaven manifested its love for humankind by providing humans with their material needs.
As Mozi pondered and taught, trade and the money economy had been expanding, and Mozi wanted the blessings of material benefits extended among common people – especially food, clothing and housing. He saw as waste those activities that did not contribute to the creation of these. He found fault with aristocrats spending enormous sums on their weddings and funerals. He condemned luxury, music, extravagant entertainment, frivolity, heavily ornamented coffins and embroidered shrouds. And in his opposition to waste, he opposed war.
Mozi lived in a time of many wars. He witnessed lords sending their armies into weaker states, devastating crops, slaughtering cattle, burning towns and temples, killing civilians and dragging people away to be made slaves. He spoke against lords who already had much but who sought what little some other lord might have. He said that killing people in great numbers should not make one a hero. He tried mediating between rulers at war with each other. It was military aggression that he opposed, and, rather than losing himself in a utopian pacifism, he created an army of well-trained, highly disciplined warriors which he offered to local rulers defending themselves against aggression.
Copyright © 2009-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.