LECTURE V. Confucianism as Polity and Ethics. Ethical Religion.
FOR civilised Japan Confucianism supplied polity and ethics. As we have seen, Shinto contains no moral code. Its only precepts so late as the seventh century A.D. are "Fear the gods and reverence the Emperor." So marked is this feature that the men who attempted the revival of pure Shinto in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries turned it to the account of their scheme by proclaiming that only the evil-minded need morals, and that therefore the lack of ethics in the early records show the pure-mindedness of the Japanese. This statement is contradicted indeed plainly enough by the early records which, like most primitive chronicles, are unhesitating in recounting all which is remembered, the Kojiki being as frank in recording evil as are the Old Testament Scriptures, though unlike them it does not rebuke and punish sin.
Surely we are not to imitate the advocates of Pure Shinto in arguing from the text, and in attempting to prove that the want of evidence establishes the want of all moral sense, but it is apparent, first, that the ethical element was not essential to the purposes of the men who compiled our sources, those purposes being, as we have seen, primarily dynastic; second, that in the primitive religion ethics and worship were by no means identical; and third, that the ancient ethics, like the ancient polity, was found ill adapted to the new state of things which already, when our sources were compiled, had become authoritative. For long before 712 the Confucian ethics had come to control conduct.
The relation of ethics to religion is one of the most difficult of topics, nor is it our purpose to discuss it here, further than to remark that our evidence all tends to show that in Japan the two were separate. Religion in the beginning was a sense of adoration and dependence, and these emotions were not directed toward ethical qualities but toward the mysterious and the powerful in nature, and nature thus worshipped is not ethical. The Japanese were still far from the stage when reflection permits the supremacy of the moral sense to be perceived.
The social state was so undeveloped that morals were not systematised until, as in all the other sciences and organised forms of life, the overpowering impression made by the world beyond the sea was felt. Then with the full tide of civilisation came in also ethics, and the authority of the great name of Confucius. Nor was this hindered by Buddhism, but the rather favoured, for it had made terms with Confucianism, and the inherent contradiction in the two systems was not yet made clear, that remaining a task undone for centuries. Meanwhile Buddhism had its code of transcendental ethics for the "religious," and for the laity it taught the practical morals of Confucianism, yet with modifications of its own, as, for example, in a certain contempt for life in general, and in detail in such prohibitions, as that of eating flesh. But the chief modifications of the ethical system were from the genius of the Japanese and the requirements of their social organisation, for the ethics of China, however accepted formally, by no means satisfied the needs or controlled the conduct..
China is indeed the land of Confucius, no other land so completely and perfectly represents its master. For millenniums he has been supreme, for his teachings have become a part of the texture of Chinese civilisation. Children learn his sayings by heart, the scholars of an hundred generations have devoted themselves to their elucidation; courts of law, the etiquette of social life, the government of the Empire, all alike acknowledge his infallible authority. Yet one may ask, Does China embody the spirit of Confucius, or is he the incarnation and representative of its life?
Confucius himself does not profess to be an originator, but a transmitter.. He hands down, unchanged, traditions which in his day were already of immemorial antiquity, and he seeks not to destroy but to fulfil. Nor are we prepared to say that his profession is mistaken, for our evidence will not permit discrimination between his teachings and the doctrine of the ancients. His answer to the question would be unhesitatingly: he has originated nothing, but is the true disciple of the Sages, as they were the infallible interpreters of nature.
The interest of Confucius was confined to China. In its limits he lived and moved and had his being. It was for him coterminous with the world, for outside of it was only a fringe of outer barbarians. Its enlightenment and its civilisation represented the ultimate truth, and in its long history he found confirmation of his fundamental principles. Knowing nothing of the principles of criticism and reverent of antiquity, China had existed in uninterrupted continuity since the dawn of human life upon the globe, and its perfection had been attained in the reigns of Yao and Shun, in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth centuries B.C. As matter of fact, we are allowing the longest time possible to history, if we grant that it begins in the twelfth century B.C., a thousand years after the Golden Age, and yet long enough before Confucius for the tradition of an immemorial antiquity to become established. He lived in the sixth century B.C., in a time of disorder, when old things seemed about to pass away, and therefore he took up his parable and prophesied.
His presuppositions have to do with the identification of China in its ideal state with the fundamental principles of the universe. China has no external history, nor does it know of progress. Wholly selfcontained, its conservatism is the natural result, and Confucius in this is typical. As are the laws of nature, universal in application, eternal in existence, unquestionable and final when established, so is it with the laws of Chinese society. They are not inventions, nor are they agreements, but they are of nature, whose chief expression they are. Man, therefore, does not invent them, but he learns them, and hence for him learning is the chief thing.. But learning is not speculation, nor is it wide in its interests. It is wholly pragmatic, and its one interest is man, and in him the interest is only ethical, for conduct is strictly all of life. Thus Confucius, though reverent of antiquity and a lover of it, cares nothing for history as a mere chronicle of the past or as a collection of great deeds. It is of value only as the principles of conduct are derived from it, and a man may understand an hundred generations if he knows the present..
With this intense and pragmatic interest in man as the sole study of man, other knowledge becomes altogether unimportant.. The physical world merely affords a stage for the development of human life and activity, but in itself has neither value nor interest; nor is theology or philosophy in better case. In so far as these affect conduct vitally let them have a hearing, but beyond this very moderate admission of their possible consequence they are not to be noticed.
When we come to study man, it is not with curiosity as to his psychology or physiology, but as to his natural relationships, for these determine at once the constitution of the state, the family, and the individual. Thus, in general, study is of morality and all else is without value. Specifically, the objects of study are the Book of Poetry, the Book of History, the Book of Changes, and the Rules of Propriety, for these contain the priceless treasures of the past.. To these the ages after the Master have added all the writings ascribed to him or to his disciples. But the method of study is by no means bookish, for the "superior" man who does not seek satiety in food, nor comfort in his dwelling, but is earnest in action, careful in speech, and frequents the society of men of principle that he may be improved, may be called a friend of study.. Thus the mind is set at first on study and then on the control of self. There result the five virtues, humanity, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity. Thus virtue is the chief thing, doing it is our business, and success is secondary.. But even the knowledge of the highest virtue and the love of it are rare, and should be grasped, cherished, and enlarged..
Humanity is the chief virtue and love to parents is its foundation. It finds expression in reciprocity, which is not sentimental nor left to chance expression. It means the service of one's father as we require the service from a son, the service of a prince as we require a servant to serve us, to serve the elder brother as we require the younger brother to serve us, and to offer first to our friends what we require from them.. But Confucius would not call himself a man of humanity in its full sense, as meeting the requirements of the law in these four relationships.. (It is noteworthy that Confucius here gives only four relations, omitting the fifth which was supplied by others, that of husband and wife.) The great precept of humanity is "Subdue thyself and return to propriety.". It is to behave abroad as if receiving a guest, to employ the people as if assisting at a great sacrifice, not to do to others as you would not have them do to you, and to have no murmuring against you in the country or in the family.. Thus loyalty is the chief expression of humanity, though it may be practised towards inferiors and friends and generally in the service of others. It includes dignity, reverence, indulgence, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. The superior man never forsakes it, but obtains his name by it and in all emergences cleaves to it.. But no inferior man possesses it. It is not remote however, but if desired is near at hand, for the strength of every one is sufficient for it, but folks do not attempt it..
Righteousness stands opposed to profit and forms the essential part of the superior man, and Confucius was troubled when hearing of righteousness he could not attend to it.. Valour is exalted by it, and to know the right without doing it is cowardice..
Evidently these virtues find their field for exercise in the family and in the state, and no such virtue as the monastic is recognised. It is true that the "superior man" may flee from society, but that is the confession that the times are out of joint and of final defeat. It is the denial of nature. For Confucius can conceive of man only as a social being, and not to belong to the well ordered family and state is to have no opportunity for virtue.
Thus man is simply the chief part of nature, and has his own highest place in it. He is not an alien or an intruder, nor is it his mere instrument, but he is an integral part of it and the highest. Now nature acts regularly, noiselessly, without effort, its actions expressing its inner qualities without straining, with everything in season, in place, and in order. When there is need of exertion, it is because things are out of place and unnatural, like storms, earthquakes, and disease. For there is a "Way" for all things, which they follow when nature is supreme and content; thus naturally it is cold in winter and warm in summer, and peace and quietude are normal. So is it with men: they exist in ranks and in relations, and when all is right all is peace and content. When we strain and strive, it is sign that nature has given place and that the unnatural obtains. Society is normal and natural when each one is in his rightful place and performs its duties.
But only the holy man, the Sage, instinctively knows and does his duty. It is not that he is omniscient but that he knows his own place and all that pertains to it, and that his conduct perfectly manifests his knowledge. Such an one is naturally Emperor, ruling as nature rules without exertion, for when the Sage, with folded arms enrobed, is in the place of power the nation follows his desire as the water shapes itself to the vessel in which it is placed. So was it in the Golden Age when the Sages reigned; every one was in his own place, every one did his duty, and there was universal peace and content. But when this principle is supplanted all is wrong, and the empire is destroyed. The same principle applies in the family: let father be father and son be son, let husband be husband and wife be wife, with all in rightful place and all content.. Thus are all the relations of life marked out and determined, not by our wills or the will of mankind, but by nature, which has set men in states and families. The individual finds himself then in these relationships and his chief duty is to set himself right. Thus first he learns to govern self, and thence may proceed to govern the family, and finally be exalted to rule in the province and in the Empire..
The virtues are thus natural, as it is natural for the child to love its parent, and for the inferior to reverence the superior. Therefore if the child be unfilial or the inferior insubordinate, the superior is to examine him. self and ask, How am I in blame that these do not render me what nature impels them to render?
But as all men save the Sage are ignorant, immense importance is attached to study, and to the rules of propriety. For nothing is left to chance and all is fixed in a rigid framework of conservatism, and for the larger part of men rites and rules become more important than inward estates and principles.
Now this system transported to Japan was not very well adapted to its new environment, and yet it accomplished large work in transforming it. As we have seen, the Confucian system bases all upon the family, for filial obedience is the type of virtue. Nowhere else has the patriarchal form of social organism been so completely carried out and so long preserved as in China. But in Japan it had scarcely come into full being, and it was soon to compete again with other forms of organisation more potent. Hence filial obedience, notwithstanding its inculcation through text-books for a thousand years, has never held first place, and the relationships have not taken their rightful Chinese order. The state itself, as we have seen, could not accept the theory, for the Emperor ruled not by virtue but by the sword. Nor could peace be the ideal, for the tradition and the facts were too opposed to it. Hence the system did not represent the people in such thorough-going fashion as on the continent and Korea was a far more obedient disciple. Yet Confucianism profoundly influenced Japan. It was the only system of ethics with the field to itself, and it was taught to all. The word of the Master was final, not only in casuistry but in courts of law. The family was slowly reorganised according to its provisions, with the Chinese laws of consanguinity in place of the ancient confusion. Propriety took on a Chinese aspect; the style of dress, the insignia of officials, the ranks of society, the etiquette of social intercourse, the moral ideals of preachers and teachers and students, all this and more was affected. Nevertheless to the end the spirit differed, and the result was noticeably distinct.
The ages of peace which succeeded the reformation of 645 and the adoption of Chinese civilisation were marked by Buddhistic rather than by Confucian forms, and when the peace was broken in the twelfth century, and the era of the feudal wars ensued, Bushido, "the way of the warrior," became representative. It was in this period that the characteristic ethics of the Japanese were wrought out. Still are the Confucian terms employed, and still is reverence given to the Master. But now instead of peace there is war, and instead of the family with its filial piety as norm there is the feudal state with loyalty unto death as the highest ideal. The substitution is thorough-going and of far-reaching consequence, for in it the true "nature" of the Japanese asserts itself, and overcomes the theoretical and Chinese "nature" of Confucius.
The stories of the Chinese works of ethics have to do with good boys who supported their parents at great pains to themselves, and of studious boys who used extraordinary means for the obtaining of an education, and of exemplary wives and orphans and model sovereigns. But the Japanese works on ethics have to do with martial merits; men who gave up all possessions for the sake of lord and clan; men who, unjustly condemned, yet refused to give up their allegiance, but came forward in the last hour to share the disaster of their unjust and defeated lord; men who, when their lord lost position, refused employment by any other; and "righteous samurai," who debauched themselves, divorced wife, drove away children, and wasted their substance in low pleasures, in order that they might throw their enemy off his guard and accomplish their deed of vengeance.. All this appealed to the Japanese heart, to its worship of the powerful and the wonderful, to its capacity for self. sacrifice, and to its instinct of loyalty, which now became its governing power.
This ideal powerfully affects the women also, and stirs them to a like devotion, so that mothers have slain themselves and their children in order that they may not live under the same heaven with the killers of their husbands and brothers.; and children are taught that they are to endure all hardship and all sufferings in order that they may be prepared for the hour of trial. "When in the morning you pass through the gate, go as never expecting to enter it again. Then will you be prepared for any adventure you may meet.". And the converse: "There is such a thing as trade. See that you know nothing of it, for trade is the only game in which the victor knows no peace.".
Righteousness and humanity come to possess connotations which seem the opposite of their primary significance A recent writer on "Bushido" describes "rectitude or justice" as "a manly virtue, frank and honest," the opposite of "cunning artifice," and yet in the preceding paragraph he names the forty-seven ronin, the men who went all lengths to throw their enemy off his guard, as its exemplars. Yet the riddle is not hard to read. The virtues, as interpreted by the samurai, forbade private gain, but permitted and enjoined stratagem and artifice in the struggle with the enemy. The righteousness was that of the soldier, which is tolerant of the errors of private life, but requires instant, complete, and unquestionable obedience.
We have then the Confucian system transformed and nevertheless an essential principle preserved, for it is the ethics of the organisation, and of the individual only as he fulfils the duties of his station. In himself he is nothing, for his relationships constitute his being. The system has the defects of its qualities. Its emphasis is so supremely upon the duty of the inferior, its virtues, as has been said, are so exclusively perpendicular, that the effect upon the superior was disastrous. The right of rebellion was denied, and the claim of the Imperial house made divine; and within the lower spheres of authority, loyalty was carried to such extremes that tyranny resulted. It was in vain that irreproachable proverbs stated the duty of superior to inferior, and that the fundamental Confucian doctrine teaches the father to act as a father, and the Emperor as Emperor. "Let the ruler first rule himself, then he may rule his people." "Let the Lord of the empire never forget that the empire is the empire of the empire, it is not the empire of one man.". These and many more set forth the duty, but the system overcame them, making corruption in high places the rule. Hence the writers on ethics, like their fellows the world over, fill their pages with lamentations because precept fails and sin prevails..
Moreover, with the exaltation of self-sacrifice and the thorough-going subordination of the individual to the organisation, the value of the individual is depreciated and a vigorous personality is not developed. For there is in the individual no most holy place which may not be violated, but daughter and son are to go to all lengths for the sake of parent or lord. A popular preacher can take as illustration of the very consummation of holiness a daughter who sells herself to a house of ill fame so as to procure medicine for her father who is ill, without a word of reproach for the parent who accepts the gift.; and in the story of the "Righteous Samurai" debauchery and degradation are sanctified by the purpose to avenge one's lord. The ethics, with its tremendous emphasis upon the sacrifice of oneself, comes at last to glorify suicide for insignificant objects, or even for no purpose at all. Thus one of the most famous writers on ethics can praise a man who refuses to serve any one when his lord has been defeated in battle, but finds an opportunity to destroy himself in a conflagration though his death benefits none.. Indeed so strong was this spirit that in the seventeenth century it was necessary to impose heavy penalties upon the families of the samurai who committed hara-kiri when their lord died..
And once more, the Confucian ethics both in China and in Japan exalted the superior man, and left the inferior man to mere obedience. He could not understand, it was enough that he should do as he was told. Hence, though the books of maxims were industriously taught, yet the greater virtues of the samurai were for him only, and the masses were left to their own devices and to the teachings of the Buddhist priests, with the result that in no small measure among the peasants the ethics of prehistoric times remained, with ancient superstitions and customs little affected by the transformations which have gone on around and above them.
Confucius exalts courage in precept and exemplified it in his life. With him it is not brute courage, but the bravery of the philosopher who knows the right and dares to do it. He has nothing to say of courage in war, and Mencius's, conception of the virtue finds its highest illustration in the minister who fearlessly reproves his sovereign. Again, the maxims are taken over into Japan, and there exert a profound influence,. but the conditions prevail over the doctrine, and martial courage takes first place. So the boy was trained to endure physical suffering, to go hungry, to visit fearsome forests at midnight, to wear slight clothing in winter, to endure cold and privation, and, in general, to despise luxury and even comfort which belonged to merchants and other humble folks, while the samurai was to be fit for high duty. How far the duty, insensibility to death, and readiness to undergo its pains might be carried is illustrated in the story told by a philosopher of high repute:
"In the olden time Sekko fancied dragons, painted them, and spent days and nights in loving them. A real dragon heard of it and thought, if he is so devoted. to painted dragons, if I visit him how he will love me! So straightway he put his head through the window, but Sekko fled panic-struck!
"Among scholars of the East and the West are some true men, but most of them are proud and vain, desirous only of reputation and applause while professing to love the Sages. Should they meet a living Sage they could not look him in the face. Their daily admiration is like Sekko's devotion to dragons. Learning without the practice of virtue is like swimming in a field. In illustration of my meaning I will tell you a story of thirty years ago.
"In Kaga I had a friend, a samurai of low rank, named Sugimoto. While absent in Adzuma with his lord his son Kujuro, who was fifteen years old, quarrelled with a neighbour's son of the same age over a game of go, lost his self-control, and before he could be seized drew his sword and cut the boy down. While the wounded boy was under the surgeon's care Kujuro was in custody, but he showed no fear and his words and acts were calm beyond his years. After some days the boy died and Kujuro was condemned to hara-kiri. The officer in charge gave him a farewell feast the night before he died. He calmly wrote his mother, took ceremonious farewell of his keeper and all in the house, and then said to the guests: 'I regret to leave you all and should like to stay and talk till daybreak; but I must not be sleepy when I commit hara-kiri tomorrow, so I'll go to bed at once. Do you stay at your ease and drink the wine.' So he went to his room and fell asleep, all being filled with admiration as they heard him snore. On the morrow he arose early, bathed, dressed himself with care, made all his preparations with perfect calmness, and then, quiet and composed, killed himself. No old, trained, self-possessed samurai could have excelled him. No one who saw it could speak of it for years without tears.
The transformation of Confucian ethics could not well be more complete.
"At the beginning of the affair I wrote to his father: 'Though Kujuro commit hara-kiri he is so calm and collected there need be no regret. Be at peace.' But as Sugimoto read the letter he remarked: 'A child often will be brave enough as others encourage it before the moxa is applied, and yet burst into tears when it feels the heat. My child is so young that I cannot be at peace until I hear that he has done the deed with bravery.' As the proverb says: 'Only such fathers have such sons.' I have told you this that Kujuro may be remembered. It would be shameful were it to be forgotten that so young a boy performed such a deed.
"But there is another reason also. Were I and all who study the words and mimic the actions of the ancient Sages to meet a living one different from our notions, we should be like the child who cries as he feels the moxa applied. Surely it were shameful to study for years, attain the name of a philosopher, and yet be less brave than this child Kujuro.
"Therefore examine yourselves with the thought.".
In another fashion the same courage is illustrated in the statesman Arai Hakuseki, who as adviser of the Shogun carried his point by his fierce resolve to slay his opponent and himself if he were defeated.. Such readiness to slay oneself was tempered, it is true, with courtesy and mercy, for, notwithstanding many similarities to Spartan training and to Stoic ideals, the Japanese are moved readily by appeals to the emotions.
Confucius has nothing to say of the duties of husband and wife, and the later writers supply the deficiency only in part. Woman exists for the family, and when her great function is performed and she furnishes an heir she is held in honour. It is as mother that she is venerated. For the rest she ranks with the inferior part of creation, and her great duty is unhesitating obedience to her incarnate "Heaven, father, elder brother, or husband.." She has no control over soul and body, and in full sense is subject to man who rules over her. In Japan this too took on a martial tinge in the representative family. The woman merged herself in family and in clan. She did not desire to survive its misfortunes, nor could she think of an individual destiny. She participated in a feminine way in the samurai training, and there are many stories of her unhesitating self-devotion. On occasion she could destroy herself with the composure of her soldier husband. But her charm was in retiracy and self-effacement. The women of the Court, it is true, knew how to influence the Government and to defeat the schemes of the highest statesman,. but this was exceptional. In woman, as ever, the ethical ideal found most complete embodiment. Living a life of privacy without concern in the activities of life, she lost herself in others, and was characterised by the refinement which belongs to gentleness, self-effacement, and a careful training in feminine accomplishments.
She thus became a model of "propriety," which ranks among the greater virtues. In Japan this was carried to high perfection, for the people have a genius for organisation and for minute detail. The out of a garment, the colour of a girdle, the ornaments of a sword, the choice of words in spoken or written address, assumed portentous importance. But so thorough was the training that obedience to etiquette became a second nature, neither burdensome nor perplexing. Essentially feminine as we esteem this extreme regard for the minutiæ of conduct, it was carried to its extreme in Japan not by the women but by the men..
Among the "inferior classes" - that is, ninety-five per cent. of the population - the Confucian teaching did not affect materially the relation of the sexes, save as it emphasised the necessity for woman's obedience. As we have seen, the classical teachings of Shinto do not distinguish between wife and concubine, and in popular literature faithfulness was exacted from the mistress as from the wife. Nor did Buddhism insist on chastity. It indeed commended the monastic life, but it condemned the sexual passions only as all others, and put no special emphasis on self-restraint in this particular. To the people in general this relation was natural and to be gratified like other desires. The late development of the family also in a negative way left the sexes free. Only the woman was to consider herself the property of some man - father, brother, husband, and to hold nothing sacred in herself, an over-emphasis which has had sad results, which constitute the most serious blemish on Japan's fair name.
It is evident that Japan, on the whole, repeated the story of feudal Europe. There was the same relative subordination of woman, the same exaltation of military prowess, the same insistence upon the rights of the superior, and the same disregard of commercial ethics. Nor was Confucianism more efficient than was Christianity in changing the structure of society.
Affect it it did, giving new ideals, and producing large and lasting effects. But in our analysis it was the feudal system and not Confucianism which constituted the actual code of morals. In China learning is in the supreme place, with the written word as sacred symbol. The scholar takes precedence of the man of wealth, and the soldier is held in contempt. But in Japan, though Confucius was held to be the infallible Master, though his tablet was worshipped in the great schools, and though his words were final authority, yet the samurai were not his offspring. The sword was their symbol, and the spirit of feudal Japan, with war as chief occupation and death as supreme sacrament, triumphed over the doctrine of him whom the lips honoured as lord.
Such compromise is characteristic of systems as of men. It is not given to all to perceive the contradiction between professions and conduct, nor between simultaneously held beliefs, so that men may deny in life what they sincerely believe in creed, and accept in ethics that which they condemn in dogma. Thus in the beginning did Buddhism compromise with the ancient cosmical theories, and also make room for the common activities. We have traced the results of these compromises, and we have noted that men were able to accept Buddhism as religion and Confucianism as guide to the practical duties of life. Ingenious exegesis, special pleading, careful reconciliations, and the maxim that the extreme teachings are counsels of perfection, not to be taken seriously in the present evil world, go far to satisfy even the critical and the doubting. But such reasoning satisfies only in part, and there may come a time when the ideals of the two teachings are seen to be contradictory, and when the alliance must be broken up. So was it with the alliance between Buddhism and Confucianism, at first in China and later in Japan.
Buddhism teaches that the world is evil, that all things pass away, excepting only karma, and that misery is inseparable from existence. Confucianism teaches that nature is essentially good, and that the natural relationships are types of eternal realities. Change there is, but it is only like the mist which gathers on the surface of the mirror, leaving its substance unimpaired. Evil, too, there is, not of nature, but against nature; it is confusion, the interruptions of our ordinary relationships, the abnormal, the unusual.. It is to be remedied, and our salvation is in a return to propriety - that is, to the established laws. The good man stands in his lot which is ordained by Heaven, performs its duties, and if need be fights the good fight. Thus he at once fulfils his destiny, and finds himself, his true self, which is nothing else than his place in the organism. Flee the world he may, indeed, but only as the sign that the times are out of joint and that it is impossible to set them right.
Now it is evident that in all this Confucianism contradicts Buddhism in its essential teaching. The contradiction was obscured because the system, as brought to China, no longer magnified the doctrine of its founder, but substituted for his words the traditions and speculations of other men. It gained wide currency precisely because it supplied other needs than those to which he ministered. Confucianism, as we shall see in the next lecture, had its own religious elements and worshipped "Heaven," but as its Master declared, "Heaven is too cold and distant, therefore they [the common people] turn to gods and demons." In his time and later his doctrines by no means had the field to themselves, and from the introduction of Buddhism, with its immediate appeal to the religious nature, Chinamen found it possible to be enthusiastic followers simultaneously of both systems. But in the eleventh and twelfth centuries of the Christian era a group of schoolmen arose who supplied to Confucianism elements which it had lacked, transforming it into a thorough-going system of metaphysical religion, and with this accomplished they broke decisively and finally with the Indian faith, the polemic being on moral grounds, for now at last the contradiction was perceived..
To Confucius, as we have seen, virtue is found only in the human relationships, and outside of them it has no meaning. To be father, son, husband, friend, subject or prince, and to perform one's rightful duties is the task set before us. To succeed is life and joy and peace, to fail is destruction. The founder of Buddhism forsook parents, wife, child, and empire in the search for salvation. This was to wander on the mountain side without guide or light, and can be excused only on the ground of ignorance. The contradiction is thus set forth:
"Question - Confucianism insists that we be rid of self and lust. Must we not forsake the world in order to attain purity?
"Answer - An opinion derived from one-sided Buddhism. Buddha forsook his empire and became a hermit. He did not fully know the truth. To the Confucianists such asceticism is the act of a madman. Every man is to follow the way with unshaken heart in the position to which he is born. Indeed, to forsake rank may be the result of selfishness. To retain and to forsake may be alike evil. The wise man looks with unconcern on all. Wealth, poverty, life, death, rank, no rank - all are alike to him. He cares only to obey the way and do his duty. Lust is disobedience, not the forsaking or possessing anything. Obedience is virtue and truth. Be obedient, and wealth and power are virtues. Be disobedient, and the hermit's life is sinful. Why is a palace polluting or a cell ennobling. What virtue is there in the ascetic's garb, and what condemnation in silken robes? We must look deeper than this; goodness and vice are in the motives and not in the things. To think certain acts virtuous is the error of the ignorant and heretical.".
Buddha was born in a barbarous land, in a time of darkness. Doubtless his intentions were good but his ignorance was great. His followers participated in his ignorance and lacked his good purpose. Hence Buddhism has become a false guide, a blind leader of men, and it is to be fled as the voice of the charmer; for it identified religion with flight from the world, and men are exhorted in its name to forsake parents, wife, child, and station. It is not surprising that the facts are as evil as the theory, so that the monasteries are the seat of depravity. What else can be expected? For when man's natural passions are denied their legitimate gratification, the indulgence of unnatural vice results. So far have the Buddhists gone that in utter degradation they teach that a man who violates the natural relationships may be saved by "faith," and that even the slayer of a parent may go to heaven through "the power of another." This is indeed to put good for evil and evil for good, light for darkness and darkness for light, so far is the system able to mislead.. For men come to regard the worship of the Buddhas as the chief thing, and are overwhelmed with fear and remorse if they deface an image while they permit themselves unworthy and brutish indulgences.. The very literature of the religion is vile, comparing with the Confucian classics as charcoal to snow..
With the adoption of the Buddhistic principle, fundamental truth disappears, for if all things change so must the "Way" of the Sages. With its disappearance man will sink until his distinctive nature is lost and he cannot be distinguished from the brutes. Hence men come to despise the "five relationships" with their "five duties," and to depend upon prayers and rites and charms. Priests deceive the common people for their own ends, and fleeing the world are more worldly than before. In short, Buddhism would destroy at once the family and the state.. It sees the evil in the world and its remedy is Flight; while Confucianism, seeing the evils, commands: Stand in your place and fight! He who thus fights has with him the powers of Heaven and of earth, for the good is mighty and shall prevail.
This polemic against Buddhism won. Buddhism became a system of funeral rites for samurai, and it was left to the ignorant and the lowly as a religion. Samurai were still enrolled as parishioners, but they looked upon the priests with contempt and did not take the trouble to understand the teaching they forsook. Hence, when Japan was once more made accessible to foreigners, outside of the priesthood it was difficult to find an educated man who professed to know anything of the established religion. Thus was the separation between gentleman and commoner made complete - in legal rights, in hereditary position, in ethical ideals, and finally in religion. Between the two was a great gulf fixed which none could pass over, and the national development reached a temporary end.
One attempt it is true was made to make the higher teaching the common property of the people. A group of teachers went from town to town and established permanent centres in the large cities. A doctrine based upon essential human nature was set forth, which exalted the "true heart" of man and bade obedience to it. Essentially the conceptions are those of later Confucianism, though Buddhist phrases so abound that the school is often described as Buddhistic. But the Buddhist doctrines are caricatured and denied, while the terms are retained. The most telling criticisms are put in the mouths of priests, who are represented as giving the essential doctrine and casting aside the husk. While hell and heaven are mentioned, it is made apparent that sorrow and happiness are within us and not of external circumstances. The exaltation of the world to come and of the religious life is only a device by means of which the founders of the sects entice men to virtue, while men and women who take the doctrines at their face values and suppose that the earthly relationships may be ignored, misunderstand the purpose and substitute form for substance. At their heart all religions are one, and their teachings one, - conduct is all of life. Just because this present world is so fleeting we must use it nobly.
But the teaching had little influence, in part perhaps because the preachers themselves were not of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made. They appealed to the sense of humour in their hearers and they were not overnice in their choice of illustrations. They found ridicule the most potent argument and hence though strong to pull down, they were unable to put strong motives in the place of that which was destroyed. After a generation or two the school ceased to attract hearers, and finally vanished, leaving behind a few volumes of sermons which are models of a preaching style so be it the preacher is without a message of life and death. With this the development of the Chinese ethical teaching came to an end, for Japan was no longer to remain isolated, but was to come under the influence once more of foreign thought, not now of China and India, but of Europe and the United States.