With Confucius: Morality is Heaven! – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

With Confucius: Morality is Heaven!

By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine



We met at Hyde Park in London. We were from different worlds. He was Confucius, teacher and educator who is known for his lessons on propriety, virtue  and morality. I was a transplant. My ancestors went from India to the Caribbean and many of us are now part of a second indenture in which questions of identity, inclusion and outsidership are constantly asked and debated.

We sat on an elongated bench that overlooked the pond and the sounds of the Sunday soapboxes filled the air. The speakers bawled about every injustice imaginable and one man in a red suit called for the end to the world. This brought a short applause from a nearby group and a smile from Confucius. There was a young man whose behavior became uncontrollable and sent his parents into embarrassed apologies. Confucius tapped his cane lightly on the ground. The traffic from Marble Arch was light now and the ducks paddled incessantly in the middle of the pond.

Confucius looked at the young man and said, ‘ those who when young show no respect to their elders achieve nothing when they grow up. They live on getting older and older and become a useless pest.’ This was poignant and it opened the way for our dialogue, between Doc and Confucius.

Doc: I understand your point. But aren’t you a bit too hard on the young? I mean young people face challenges and many try their best to do well in spite of them.

Confucius: I agree that some do try their best but how many blot out the distractions and focus on what is important? There are different classes of learners. There are those that are born possessing knowledge. You might say this is innate wisdom and they fall in the highest class. Then there are others that devote most of their time to learning. They are dedicated and so they end up possessing knowledge. But some are simply dull and stupid and they fall in the lowest class.’

Doc: You have put learners into different classes and also described some as ‘dull and stupid’ but surely all can learn in the right conditions?

Confucius: Knowledge is about seeking the truth. I do not open up the truth to one who fools around or who cannot explain himself or take responsibility seriously. What you see today is a problem in the total society. Everyone wants to jump ahead of the pack, with as little learning or qualifications as possible. Standards have fallen and people don’t seem to care. Children are left to their own devices and they believe that taking shortcuts will bring them maximum rewards. Drugs prevent a lot of them from thinking straight. We are cultivating the stupid society.

Doc: What then would you recommend? How can we get education and learning to be relevant and to produce good upstanding men and women?

Confucius: (smiles). We should return to the old values that people have forgotten.  You may have someone that is interested in the study of all forms of learning and takes it seriously. That person is well-rounded. In other words he or she will follow the rules of propriety and will stay on the path of what is right. In the old days learning was done to improve oneself and to share the rewards with others. Today it’s all about money and prestige. It’s about tests that measure one’s ability to memorize information but does little to educate. Where is the balance between tests and learning? Where is the pure joy in knowledge?  You can go to the most expensive school and leave with little in your head.

Doc: What would be a maxim that you would like to leave for the New York City Department of Education and educators everywhere?

Confucius: ‘ The wise are free from perplexities; the virtuous from anxieties; and the bold from fear.’

Doc: Let us move on to another contentious area. It deals with rulers and governments. We see many governments using force to keep the people under control and of course to stay in power. What advice do you have for these rulers?

Confucius: This is worrying. Force is not the answer. It never will be. Society will change through the application of good deeds. When people see the good deeds of the rulers it becomes easy to govern. When people know their place some of the rules may even be relaxed. There must be purity in thought and action. When there are good deeds and morality is practiced how can there be conflict and force? Why would we want to exterminate anyone? Let there be morality in everything we do. Morality is heaven! Another way of putting it is, ‘ the relations between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend when the wind blows it.’

Doc: This is beautifully put but why do good conduct and morality seem to escape many of the leaders today?

Confucius: The answer is that leaders do not realize that the rule of practice is as old as civilization itself. It is called reciprocity.  ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.’ Another way of putting it is, ‘ the mind of the superior man is conversant with virtue; the mind of the base man is conversant with gain.’

Doc: You have used the term ‘superior man.’ What does this mean?

Confucius: The superior man seeks the truth. Food, for instance, is secondary to him. He is a personification of virtue. The mind of the base man is focused only on personal gain. He wants to see what he can get out of the system for himself. But he who is superior looks for the righteousness in others and he does so with propriety. He is humble and sincere. Richness and honors mean little to him. He is not affected if his name is not called at important functions. He knows that what he is seeking is within himself. The superior man is modest and dignified and he stands in awe of Heaven, great men and the sages. He sees, thinks, and hears clearly and exceeds in his actions. When a ruler’s conduct is correct the government will be effective. If his conduct is not correct he can pass a bundle of laws but people will not follow them.

Doc: Another area of discussion is that of women and the family. There are constant debates about the role of women. They are supposed to hold up half the sky, be at their husband’s side and to provide for the family in difficult conditions. You have said that ‘ a woman ruler is like a hen crowing’ and ‘disorder is not sent down by Heaven, it is produced by women.’ But perhaps the most controversial is ‘women are to be led and to follow others.’ Really?

Confucius: (looking pensive) Well, remember that was written several hundreds of years ago. In order for society to be stable roles must be ascribed and people should know where they fit in them. It is not to suggest that women are inferior beings. In order for a man to assume his rightful place in society he must do so with respect since respect is the basis of love. This means that he has to treat his wife and family with respect. “ To omit respect is to leave no foundation for affection. Without love there can be no union; without respect the love will be ignoble.” When a woman merges herself in the family of her husband it clears the path for peace and good relations. It keeps propriety and virtue afloat.

Doc: But today there are women leaders all over the world and they are as good and talented as men. Surely you must be pleased…

Confucius: It’s wonderful to see women leaders but they must remain true to the core and stay close to their husbands and the family. They must bring up the children with moral values in which respect for the living and dead takes a special place. Propriety means that good manners and behavior between husbands and wives should be present at all times. We need decorum too. I see the way people dress these days and I am appalled. Is there a scarcity of cloth? I call on men to treat the women well so they may bloom to the fullest. A gentleman is not a vessel.

Doc: There is a country called Guyana and the elections will be held there soon. What advice do you have for the leaders?

Confucius: ‘ Exalt the straight, set aside the crooked and the people will be loyal. Exalt the crooked, set aside the straight and the people will be disloyal.’

Doc: Thanks for your time. We are truly grateful.

Confucius: (laughing) Thanks this was awesome and totally cool! Be dignified. Loving hearts find peace.The vulgar are always fretting!

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  • de castro  On 05/06/2015 at 4:50 am

    literally via internet e mail……

    Words of wisdom !


  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 05/06/2015 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and inspiring article, Dr. Narine. Modern man has trodden on ancient wisdom to our peril.

  • albert  On 05/08/2015 at 1:19 pm

    Confucius: ………..”Today it’s all about money and prestige. It’s about tests that measure one’s ability to memorize information but does little to educate. Where is the balance between tests and learning?”

    Confucius here might be commenting with British education in mind. American educators might push back with the point that good American Universities teach students to think. Case studies, for instance, usually has little or nothing to memorize That is why America is so good at creating new things and others like the Chinese work hard at stealing American technology.

  • dhanpaul narine  On 05/10/2015 at 12:03 am

    He said ‘ exalt the straight, set aside the crooked…’ which is good advice for Guyanese on Monday May 11, 2015.

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