“The Way” of Leadership

Dào – the Way and Confucianism
Dào / Dao – the Way

Although Dào literally means ‘a way’ or one of its synonyms, the meaning was extended to mean ‘the Way.’ And this term, variously used by many Chinese philosophers such as Confucius, Mencius, Mò Zǐ, and Han Fei Zǐ, has a special meaning within the context of Daoism, where it implies the essential, unnamable process of the universe.

Daoism is traditionally traced to the mythical philosopher Lǎo Zǐ , the ‘Old Master’ to whom the text Dào Dé Jīng has been attributed. Dào Dé Jīng is translated as ‘The Classic/Canon of the Way/Path and the Power/Virtue,’ the title was generally used from the Tang dynasty period (618–905).

And the Daoism philosophy owes more to Zhuāng Zǐ (4th century BE) the author of the core texts of the Chinese way of thinking known as ‘Daoism.’ Zhuāng Zǐ is traditionally credited as the author of at least part of the work, the one bearing his name, the Zhuāng Zǐ.
English: Analects, by Confucius. Östasiatiska ...
English: Analects, by Confucius. Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Confucianism principles are based on the written work The Confucian Analects (Lún Yǔ) ‘found’ by Confucius who lived two thousand and five hundred years ago.  The Chinese language does not use the word Confucianism, instead it is called Rú Jiāo meaning ‘scholar’ and ‘teach.’

To compare Daoism and Confucianism, for which may be said to constitute the Yīn and Yáng of Chinese culture, at first they seem to be polar opposites of each other. But as with Yīn and Yáng, they both interchange and comprise each other, however in dissimilar contexts. Confucianism focuses on the social, earthly orientation of everyday life and political organization. Daoism places much more focus on the relationship of the individual with himself on achieving the inner harmony. The former stresses hierarchical relations focusing on the parent-child, kingdom-family pattern for the highest authority is maternal force that creates a range of ‘ten thousand’ singularities. Where Daoism says the way to do is to be, Confucianism disagrees, saying the opposite the way to be is to do. Daoism says the Dào, the Way, makes people great; Confucianism teaches that people make the Dào great.

Daoists believe the greater whole to be the nature. Confucians feel it is society. Daoists look to the nature because they see it as our creator, and being our creator, we should realize our potential to become a part of it once again. Daoism is the guidance of the way. Confucianism follows the way of doing.  Confucianism looks outward to accomplish this while Daoism looks inward.

Both Daoism and Confucianism urge humankind to shed their individuality for this goal. They both contend that individualism holds the individual back and also fragments the essence of the greater whole. Even if different, both philosophies focus on the goal of self-improvement.

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