Zen and the Eastern Spirit

Confucius' Personality

I am the author of this website, a Japanese Zen master belonging to the Rinzai sect.
I had been studying German philosophy at Kyoto university but somehow wasn't satisfied. I would like to introduce a little bit about why I have renounced the world and become a Zen monk and the history of my practices before I became a Zen master.
I hope this will help Western people who are interested in Zen Buddhism, and I hope that they will find my story interesting.

1, Sayings from the Analects of Confucius

The following sayings are taken from the Analects of Confucius. This book has been the backbone of Eastern thought for more than 2000 years.

"The master said that pleasure can still be enjoyed even while living a life of eating poor food, drinking only water, and using an elbow for a pillow. Doing injustice, becoming rich and gaining higher positions is transitory and unrelated to me, like a floating cloud."

"The master said, ‘How wise Hui (Gankai) is! With a bowl of gruel and a cup of something to drink, and living in a narrow alley; ordinary people could not bear to live this way; but no one will ever change this way of life that pleases him. How wise Hui is!’"

2, What is "True Pleasure"?

Two Chinese Confucians of the Song era asked "What was the thing that Confucius and Yan Hui found most pleasure in?" Later Chu-tzu(Shushi) added that Confucius and Yan Hui did not find pleasure in poverty itself.

In fact, they have always been living in the midst of pleasure. Though poverty would have seemed cruel to other people, it was not suffering for them.

Kaibara Ekken, who was a famous Confucian in the Japanese Edo era, quoted:
"A man of virtue enjoys following the right way; a small-minded man enjoys following his desires. Following the right way and controlling the desires will bring us pleasure and order in life. Following the desires and forgetting the right way will not bring us pleasure and will bring disturbance into life."
(The Words of ‘Li Ji [Raiki]’)

And from this quotation he concluded,
"Therefore, the pleasure of a small-minded man is not true pleasure. Moreover, it will always bring him suffering."

Confucius may have appeared to have lived an unfortunate life, but when hearing that one of his disciples was asked by a high chancellor about his master's personality and could not answer, he said, "Why didn't you say to him that my nature is: forgetting about meals when I am being inspired, forgetting about anxiety when I am enjoying the right way, and not realizing that I am going to become an old man soon."

3, Confucius: a Man With a Natural Attitude

After Confucius asked his disciples about their wishes, he calmly expressed his own:

"Making the elderly at ease,
Having friends trust me,
Having the younger people look up to me, is the way to be."

This state of a steady mind at ease of the saintly Confucius is the ultimate pleasure, fulfilling life truly. This is also his flexible, free mind.
Because he was "a man of selflessness," Confucius was "a man of sincerity" with the virtue of modesty.

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© 2005 Kanju Tanaka All Rights Reserved.
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