Confucius Tells You How to Change the World for the Better
One of the great dilemmas of at our times is the question of how best to apply ourselves in the quest to change the world for the better. Where is our limited time and finite personal energy best spent if we wish to manifest a world free of corruption and ignorance?
Are we supposed to vote? To participate in the system in some civic way? Should we hit the streets protesting, or gang up and attack ideas we don’t like and disagree with? Can we change the world by arguing with others, or by constantly parroting a preferred version a reality to everyone we meet? By going to war at the behest of psychopaths?
Of course our attention is deliberately directed on to these arenas, but the answer to this question is deeply personal, as unique to each individual as is the eye’s iris. At its core, though, the quest to change the world begins with the crucial work of changing one’s self.
This fundamental truth of human experience is perhaps best explained in one of my favorite quotes by the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. Writing in the classic treatise, The Great Learning, some five-hundred years before Christ, Confucius explains…
“The illustrious ancients, when they wished to make clear and to propagate the highest virtues in the world, put their states in proper order. Before putting their states in proper order, they regulated their families. Before regulating their families, they cultivated their own selves. Before cultivating their own selves, they perfected their souls. Before perfecting their souls, they tried to be sincere in their thoughts. Before trying to be sincere in their thoughts, they extended to the utmost their knowledge.
Such investigation of knowledge lay in the investigation of things, and in seeing them as they really were. When things were thus investigated, knowledge became complete. When knowledge was complete, their thoughts became sincere. When their thoughts were sincere, their souls became perfect. When their souls were perfect, their own selves became cultivated. When their selves were cultivated, their families became regulated. When their families were regulated, their states came to be put into proper order. When their states were in proper order, then the whole world became peaceful and happy.” ~Confucius, The Great Learning
This really is the starting point… as succinct as one could put it. To change the world you must first embark on a quest for truth within yourself. Commenting on this simple idea, contemporary philosopher Will Durant points out:
Here is sound moral and political philosophy within the compass of a paragraph. It was a highly conservative system; it exalted manners and etiquette, and scorned democracy; despite its clear enunciation of the Golden Rule it was nearer to Stoicism than to Christianity.
What was his basic philosophy? It was to restore morality and social order by spreading education.” ~Will Durant
Education of the self about the self is the foundation of sincerity of thought, which frees us to see things for what they really are. From here, anything is possible.
Read more articles by Dylan Charles.
About the Author
Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and host of The Battered Souls Podcast, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.
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