Comments on "Ren" and "De" by the Ancients
(Clearwisdom.net) Ren* (kindness) is the core of Confucianism in traditional Chinese culture. The focal point of "Ren" is to "love and care for people", promoting a relationship of kindness between people. Confucius stated that when all classes of society can be kind and follow this etiquette, society will be harmonious, and people will live peacefully and happily. Confucius stressed that practicing Ren (kindness) and De (morality) is not a matter of capability, but a matter of attitude.
Confucius repeatedly mentioned the idea of "kindness and love". He said: "Only the man with Ren can know what to like and what to despise."
In the view of the ancients, people often judge something based on one's own liking. They might like someone who treats them well, and dislike those who don't, so it is very difficult for them to be impartial. They are bound by their selfish outlook. On the other hand, the person who has Ren is without selfishness, and has a vast and open heart. He can sensibly discern good from evil.
Confucius also said: "For people without Ren, what is Li? For people without Ren, what is Yue?" Meaning, if a person is not benevolent, etiquette will not have any use for him. If a person is not benevolent, he will not appreciate music or know the meaning of it.
To Confucius, kindness is the foundation for education in etiquette and music. If one does not have a mind for kindness and love, then etiquette and music bear no meaning to that person. If someone is using etiquette and music to portray himself as being cultured, it is of no use.
Confucius also said: "What oneself does not want, one does not apply to others." "One who wants to establish a foothold should help others to do the same; one who wants to reach a goal should help others to reach their goals".
Confucius also said: "Tolerance gains the heart of many."
Tolerance, forgiveness, kindness and love have always been important aspects of Confucianism.
Influential philosopher Zhang Zai of the North Song Dynasty said: "Love others like you love yourself, and then it is the fulfillment of Ren."
Zhang Zai promoted the Confucian ideology of Ren actively. He was strict with himself in both words and action. His life was very modest, yet happy and simple. He once said: "Respect the elders, and have compassion towards the orphans and the weak. This is a moral way."
*This word meaning kindness is different from the word for "Forbearance", which is also pronounced "Ren".