The Proper Conduct of a Confucian Scholar
(Clearwisdom.net) When Lu Aigong asked Confucius about the code of conduct for a Confucian scholar, Confucius replied: "A Confucian scholar lives a dignified life. He has a respectful manner when sitting or standing, his speech is trustworthy, and his behavior is not devious. He does not take risky short cuts for the sake of convenience. He does not strive for the comforts of life. He treasures life and waits for the opportunity to maximize his potential."
"A Confucian scholar does not regard gold and jade as treasures, but values loyalty and honesty. He does not desire to possess land, but establishes virtue and chivalry as the foundation of his lot. He does not seek to amass material goods, but acquires profound knowledge as wealth. To a Confucian scholar, duty comes first, and the rewards come later. It is easy to accommodate and to provide for him. A Confucian scholar does not cooperate on matters that are not upright. This is how a Confucian scholar conducts himself with others.
"A Confucian scholar will not compromise one's integrity for personal gain. When he encounters intimidation from the masses or threats from the military force, he holds on to his moral principles until death. A Confucian scholar does not make the wrong remarks twice, and he does not investigate rumors. He always maintains a dignified demeanor and appearance, and makes quick decisions when things need to be done. This is the way a Confucian scholar uniquely establishes himself in the world."
"Loyalty and honesty are his helmets; etiquette and justice are his shields; benevolence and righteousness are the measurement of his conduct in life. Even tyrannical politics will not change his integrity. This is how a Confucian scholar conducts himself in society."
"If a senior official accepts his suggestion, then he firmly believes in it, and fully devotes himself. However, if the senior official does not adopt his idea, he does not use flattery or try hard to please him. This is the way a Confucian scholar handles politics."
"A Confucian scholar has extensive knowledge but continues to study diligently, and possesses sincerity and honesty but constantly improves his moral character. He does not indulge himself when he is not successful, and follows the righteous path even when his government career is smooth. He acts according to the etiquettes that are based on harmony and peace. He considers loyalty and honesty as virtues, and tolerance and mercifulness as the law. He admires the virtuous and accepts everyone. This is the tolerant characteristic of a Confucian scholar."
"Upon hearing helpful speeches, a Confucian scholar will tell everyone, and when he sees beneficial things, he will point them out. When a title of nobility is being offered, he yields to others. When faced with dangers and difficulties, he does not avoid them. When a promotion is being offered, he awaits his friend to be promoted. If the friend lives far away, he tries to invite and to recruit his friend. This is how a Confucian scholar recommends a friend."
"Gentleness and goodness are the roots of benevolence. Respect and prudence are the soil of benevolence. Magnanimity and tolerance are the power of benevolence. Etiquette and civility are the outer appearance of benevolence. Words and speech are the cultural qualities of benevolence. Song and music are the harmony of benevolence. Charity and generosity are the deeds of benevolence. A Confucian scholar possesses all of the above virtues, yet he does not dare to claim that he has reached the level of benevolence. These are the traits of humility and modesty of a Confucian scholar."
"A Confucian scholar does not lose his aspirations when he is poor or destitute, and does not relinquish his integrity when he is wealthy and honored. He does not renounce his moral values when the ruler is condescending and insulting, when the high official is intervening, or when the government official is creating obstacles. Therefore, he is called a Confucian. People nowadays have the wrong views regarding Confucians. They often use the term Confucian scholar to ridicule others."
After hearing Confucius' words, Lu Aigong made sure his words were sincere and honest, and that his behavior was righteous. He added: "I will not dare to joke about the Confucian scholars for the rest of my life."
From The Book of Rites.
July 2, 2006