1. According to Confucius, what are two of the main sources of human discord? Explain why this is so. Provide at least one example of how these sources result in discord.
2. What does Confucianism prescribe for the alleviation of human suffering? Provide an example.
3. What makes a sage a sage?
4. Describe the basic human condition according to Hinduism. What does Hinduism prescribe as a means for rising above this condition?
5. What is benevolence, and what is required to achieve it? Distinguish between the Shankara way and the Ramanuja way.
6. What, according to Buddhism, is the main source of human suffering?
7. What does Buddhism recommend in order to reduce suffering?
1. Selfishness and ignorance of the past are the two main sources of human discord according to Confucius . Selfishness for satisfying own interest generally causes sufferings for others and lack of self-respect for other. Ignorance of the past leads to lack of moral insight. Thus, both selfishness and ignorance of the past are main sources of human discord.
For example, a king who rules his kingdom with selfishness will more likely make others suffer for his self-interest. Also if he is ignorant of what is the definition of a good ruler in the past, he is sure to make unethical decisions as he is actually unaware that he was not performing ethically.
2. Confucianism prescribes self-discipline for the alleviation of human suffering. It is important to do right not for profit but because it is right. One must reward moral excellence and cultivate self. Education is the best answer to ignorance of the past and benevolence helps to get over selfishness.
For example, a king who is self-disciplined, rewards moral excellence, focuses on cultivating self, is educated and benevolent will always consider the interests of others over self-interest and will also influence others to follow these practices.
3. The word sage is used to define a person who is profoundly wise and has wisdom which a philosopher seeks (Howell). Not every philosopher is a sage, but a sage has a good hand over philosophy and practices sagehood. The deep desire for self-realization and self-cultivation, the striving for harmoniousness, balance and human perfection makes a sage a sage. A sage’s desire to understand the truth behind his relationship with other human beings and the relationship of all human beings with an unknown and untouched form of energy motivates them to practice sagehood (Howell). A sage’s ability to understand expectations and memories, frustrations and guilt, sorrows and joys, pain, suffering, ecstasy, triumph, depravity, nobility, degradation, honor, mendacity, sincerity, stress and release makes them a sage and unique from others.
4. Hinduism has a very comprehensive view of the human condition and has classified all human needs into four broad categories referred to as purushaarthas which includes artha, kama, moksha and dharma (Nault). Kama refers to the pleasure of senses, both sensual pleasure, and aesthetic pleasure. Artha refers to human’s desire for wealth, material well-being and power, dharma refers to the desire for virtue and righteousness. Moksha refers to one’s desire for liberation from reincarnation. Dharma plays a vital role in all four stages. Hinduism has prescribed Moksha as the means for rising above basic human conditions. Path of knowledge and correct actions also helps in rising above basic human condition.
5. Benevolence refers to one’s desire for being good and doing good things for others. It is also defined as an inclination to be kind and perform an act of kindness (Küng). Benevolence can be achieved by treating others with due respect, dignity and integrity, recognizing their individuality, independence, and humanity and maintain a harmony between our interests and that of others.
As per the Shankara way, the phenomenal way is not real and is an illusion created by Maya, only the permanent or the Atman is real. Contrary to this Ramanuja way believes that the phenomenal world is real and not an illusion, it shares a unique relation with atman (Küng).
According to Shankara way, there is no difference between God and a living being, while Ramanuja way believes that that there is a difference between living being and God and all living beings are part of God (Howell).
6. The essence of Buddha’s teachings is comprised in the Four Noble Truths. As per the first noble truth, life is suffering (Chodron). Second noble truth identified the causes of suffering; Third noble truth informs that it is possible to overcome this suffering. Fourth noble truth shows the path that leads to end of these sufferings.
The second noble truth of Buddhism identifies desire and ignorance as the root cause of sufferings (Chodron). Desire refers to the human craving for material goods, pleasure, and immortality which are needs that are impossible to satisfy. A desire to satisfy such needs leads to suffering. Ignorance in accepting the realities of life give rise to the feelings of anger, greed, hatred and envy which are causes of suffering.
7. Third and forth truths of Buddhism informs that it is possible to overcome suffering and attain happiness by following the path that leads to the end of suffering (Chodron). As per Buddha, it is possible to attain nirvana by giving up desire and ignorance. The path on which an individual must work to reduce suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path and comprises of Perfect Thought, Perfect Understanding, Perfect Action, Perfect Speech, Perfect Effort, Perfect Livelihood, Perfect Mindfulness, Perfect Effort and Perfect Concentration (Chodron). By following the noble eightfold path, an individual can lead a good and happy life as it covers all aspects of life such as the social, economical, ethical and psychological aspect.
Chodron, Thubten. Buddhism for Beginners. Colorado: Shambhala Publications, 2012.
Freedman, Russell. Confucius: The Golden Rule. London: Scholastic Inc., 2002.
Howell, Kerry E. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London: Sage, 2012.
Küng, Hans. Tracing The Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions. London: A&C Black, 2006.
Nault, Derrick M. Asia Journal of Global Studies, Issues 1-2. New York: Universal-Publishers, 2012.
The Meaning of Life. Summary of Confucius on Human Nature. 2014. 2016 .