Proper Dharma Seal I
Chapter 2: To Govern
(6) Meng Wubo inquired about filial respect. The Master replied, “Where parents are concerned, illness is a major cause for worry.”
Meng Wubo inquired about filial respect. Meng Wubo, another official in the State of Lu at that time, also asked about how one should be filial to one’s parents. He was stricken with an illness. What illness was it? If it was not a drinking problem, then it was a case of being greedy for wealth. In short, it was an illness brought about by drinking, lust, wealth, and anger; and a serious one at that. The Master replied. Therefore, Confucius answered him in this way. Where parents are concerned, illness is a major cause for worry. What parents worry about is their children being sick. Once they become ill, that means they are not being filial.
(7) Ziyou inquired about filiality. The Master replied, “Nowadays, a filial person is said to be one who is able to support his parents and provide for their sustenance. As for hounds and horses, they too can be raised similarly. If there is no respect shown, wherein lies the difference?”
Ziyou inquired about filiality. Ziyou was a disciple of Confucius and he, too, asked about how to be filial to one’s parents. The Master replied, “Nowadays, a filial person.” Confucius cited the example of people then who claimed to be filial. Is said to be one who is able to support his parents and provide for their sustenance. They considered themselves as filial individuals because they said, “I’m able to provide for my father’s or mother’s needs.” For example, how do all of you, as disciples, show your filiality to your Master? By saying: “I am able to make offerings to my master; every cent of mine is spent on good food for my master to keep him alive.” Is that considered filial respect? Actually, it isn’t.
Confucius then elaborated further. As for hounds and horses. ‘犬’ (quan) refers to hounds or dogs, while ‘馬’ (ma) refers to domesticated horses. They too can be raised similarly. You can also keep horses and dogs and provide for them. If there is no respect shown, wherein lies the difference? If you do not treat your parents respectfully, then isn’t it the same as rearing dogs and horses? After all, these animals also receive the same treatment. This is why you should show reverence and respect.
(8) Zixia inquired about filiality. The Master replied, “Maintaining a pleasant countenance is hard. Should there be any task at hand, the junior person may undertake to carry it out. Where wine and delicacies are available, the seniors may be invited to partake of them. However, are these considered acts of filiality?”
Zixia inquired about filiality. His family name was Bu, his personal name was Shang and he was styled Zixia. He, too, asked about how to be filial to one’s parents. You see, quite a number of people inquired about filial respect and Confucius responded differently to each of them.
The Master replied, “Maintaining a pleasant countenance is hard.” Do you know why Confucius answered him in this way? What’s the meaning of this line? Does it mean that it is very difficult to show a pleasant face? For your information, this is an allusion to bad-tempered people, who find it difficult to be pleasant and affable. There is no explanation for this other than “bad temper.” Such people try to fulfill their filial duties and yet tend to throw tantrums and show a sour face to their parents. This is how temperamental they can be. Should there be any task at hand, the junior person may undertake to carry it out. If the parents have any matters needing attention, the children should take it upon themselves to help them out. Where wine and delicacies are available, the seniors may be invited to partake of them. Wine and delicacies refer to delicious food. “Seniors” refer to parents, teachers and elders. Offer them whatever is flavorful and delicious. However, are these considered acts of filiality? Does the performance of such acts make one filial? In Confucius’ opinion, to be even-tempered is to be filial. Since always being pleasant and accommodating is not easy, it follows that maintaining a pleasant countenance is hard. This means that our facial expressions should not show any signs of displeasure and that we should not give vent to our bad temper. This is the same as what was mentioned in the previous section: As for hounds and horses, they too can be raised similarly. If you help them to do something or offer them some good food and yet get upset with them at the same time, how can this be considered filial respect?