(Clearwisdom.net) Benevolence is a very important concept in Confucius' belief system. Confucius believed that a high moral standard is often reflected in whether a person's thoughts and actions are consistent with the principle of benevolence. Confucius praised his favorite disciple Yan Yuan for "not betraying benevolence for three months in a row."

Confucius considered benevolence to be the most important moral character. He said, "If people are not benevolent, what merit do good manners have? If people are not benevolent, what merit does good taste in music have?" Benevolence exists in everyone's nature. As long as one wants to be benevolent, he can be close to it. "Is benevolence far away from people? As long as I seek benevolence, it will come."

Uprightness, persistence, simplicity and honesty, these characters are all close to benevolence. On the other hand, decorated words and flattery rarely reach the realm of benevolence.

Confucius believed that as long as a person wishes to be benevolent, he will no longer do evil. For a gentleman with noble character, benevolence is even more essential. "If a gentleman departs from benevolence, how could he maintain the name of a gentleman? A gentleman does not depart from benevolence even for the duration of one meal. This is still true even in dangerous and adverse situations, and when he is traveling away from home."

Fan Chi once asked about benevolence. Confucius said, "When you are alone, be watchful of your actions. When working, be respectful of your work. When dealing with people, try your very best. Even when you go to a place where people have no manners or culture, you have to persist in these principles."

Fan Chi asked, "If a benevolent person does not fear difficulties and does not care about personal gains, is he considered benevolent?" Confucius answered, "Care about people."

Yan Yuan asked about benevolence. Confucius said, "Conquer your selfish desires and return to the path of civility. Once you can accomplish that, then everyone under the same sky will be inspired and seek to be benevolent. Practicing benevolence is all up to oneself."

Yan Yuan asked about how to do it specifically. Confucius said, "Don't look at, listen to, say, or do anything that does not conform with civility."

Zhong Gong asked about benevolence. Confucius said, "When going outside, act like you are meeting with important guests. An official should act solemnly like he is hosting an important ritual. If you do not wish to have a certain thing something done to you, don't do the same to others. If everyone were like this, there would be no complaints within the country or within a family."

Sima Niu asked about benevolence. Confucius said, "A benevolent person is careful with his words and is considerate so he does not embarrass others."

Zi Zhang asked Confucius about benevolence. Confucius said, "If you can have five noble characteristics in this world, then you have achieved benevolence. These five characteristics are: humbleness and politeness, tolerance, honesty and faith, diligence, and kind care."

Zi Gong asked about how to practice benevolence. Confucius said, "If a carpenter wants to do his job well, he has to first organize his tools. When living in a country, you have to serve the intellectuals who are both virtuous and talented, and make friends with officials who seek benevolence."

Zi Gong asked, "If a person can do things to benefit all the people and help them through difficulties, how is this person? Is he considered benevolent?"

Confucius said, "This is far beyond benevolence. Only saints can reach this realm! Yao and Shun (ancient kings) both felt they were lacking in this area. If a benevolent person wants to be well educated and cultured, he must also help others be educated and cultured. If he wants to be successful, he must also help others succeed. Finding out how to treat others based on how you would want to be treated is also one way to apply benevolence."

(Source: Lun Yu)