Rituals vs. Universal Love

This poem is an imaginary dialogue between Kongzi (Confucius) and Mozi, two ancient Chinese philosophers.

The goal that my teachings have planned
Is social order throughout the land

How will you achieve this noble aim
And make for yourself a name?

I will teach people to follow ren
Which is love for other men

And how will you teach
People this ideal to reach?

I will teach people to follow rites
So that each in good habits delights
In this way, people will find the good
And become superior as they should
And when people have attained this goal
Society will be orderly and whole
What are the habits people should heed
So that your noble plan will succeed?

People should follow what is right
So their futures will be bright
People should follow traditions
And their elders’ admonitions
Children should love and respect
Their parents, as is correct
Leaders should be obeyed
And the city’s taxes paid

Sometimes traditions are a waste
And should not be blindly embraced
Sometimes the people’s need
Does away from habit lead

For the most part, though
Habit is the way to go
For order to be maintained
Traditions should be retained

Should children also give protection
To others’ parents and show affection?
Should people love the stranger
Or does this invite certain danger?

Practical is my teaching
And never overreaching
In what man can achieve
And give and receive
To love strangers is not right
For we can only be polite
To those we don’t know
And then on our way go

But if people are partial
And they cannot marshal
Love that is unselfish
Then we can only wish
For inner social order
And peace on our border
For partiality is a fire
That continues to burn higher
When selfishness is the rule
All our actions become cruel

People must know their place
And not your ideas chase
When people follow the rules
They don’t descend to be fools

But if the world changes for us
Then we are forced to discuss
Whether our current actions
Keep for us their attractions

People must keep tradition
Change is an imposition
Fate cannot be changed
For all is prearranged

Rituals are a heavy load
That causes virtue to erode
People are always free
With heaven to agree
Or they can deny its will
And feel the ego’s chill
The will of heaven above
Is truly universal love
We cannot choose to hate
One, and lovingly relate
To one that is near
For heaven is clear
In that to truly love one
We must love everyone

Impractical is your thought
Not something to be taught
People can only love those near
For all cannot be a peer

I cannot change your mind
I can only gently remind
That if people don’t follow
Heaven they will swallow
Some easy to learn teaching
Or some familiar preaching
If people are self-seeking
They will always be critiquing
Those who are different
Even to the extent
Of ruining social concord
A result to be abhorred
But if people see their interest
Shared with others, this will arrest
Selfishness of all variety
As peace comes to society