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Filial sense that Confucius supported. Nonetheless though,

Filial piety is an integral part of
Chinese culture and is one of China’s most important morals. Therefore, it
makes sense that it has been embraced by China’s three main religions:
Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The term, filial piety, refers to the
tremendous respect, love and support that Chinese children have for their
parents, elders, and ancestors. These offerings include obedience and duty to
comply with their parents’ wishes, taking care of their elders in old age and
provide them with sufficient food and clothing, burying their ancestors in the
appropriate and proper way after death, and by bringing honor to their family.
The idea of filial piety comes from the fact that parents give life to their
children and support them with material needs, food, water and education until
they reach their adult lives. Children acknowledge their debt to their elders
and are required in some way to fulfill the duty of filial piety in the three
religions in order to obtain the title of a noble person, the Dao, or enlightenment.
Among the three, Confucianism supports the ideals of filial piety the most in
its texts. With Daoism and Buddhism’s use of monasteries, it prevents its
followers from being filial children in the sense that Confucius supported.
Nonetheless though, all three religions adopt the idea of filial piety in their
religious practices in some way.

Confucianism, the family is the center of the Chinese culture and ancestral
worship is considered not only a duty, but also an honor. The filial piety
attitude was first directed towards the past and ancestors1.
In the Analects, filial piety is
frequently referred to the living parents as well as their ancestors. The Confucianism
teaching in the Analects says, “When
one’s parents are alive, one serves them in accordance with the rites; when
they are dead, one buries them in accordance with the rites and sacrifices to
them in accordance with the rites.”2
Confucius is saying that one must not only honor their ancestors from the past,
but they also must honor their ancestors that are living which would be their
parents. Serving one’s parents is a life time service in which sufficient food
and clothes must be provided for the parents. It is not enough to just cover
the basic needs of the elders, but filial children must go above and beyond.
There is believed to be three levels of filial piety. The highest level is
honoring one’s parents through their own achievements and service to other
people and China. The second level is by bringing honor to the family by not
failing and thirdly, the lowest level is just by giving one’s parents a good
The concept of filial piety is also exhibited in other Confucian texts like The Essential Mengzi. Mengzi was
considered to be one of the influential interpreters of Confucius and developed
his teachings based off of Confucius. He believed in the same sense of filial
piety that Confucius did. In Mengzi’s book of teachings (4A), he discusses how
the greatest service in a person’s life is serving one’s parents (19.1)4.  A Confucius idea is that of benevolence and
in order to be benevolent, one must love and care for others. The core of that
benevolence is the service to one’s parents. 5  In Confucian thought, the continuity of the
family name is a part of obtain a form of immortality. The service and respect
of one’s parents and elders extends to the afterlife by honoring them in the
afterlife in the same way they were when in the living world. By achieving
this, the sense of family and community is able to live on from generation to
generation. Filial piety is also an essential element of being able to achieve
the title of being a noble person.

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the surface, it seems as though Daoism and Confucianism are very different. The
two philosophies have the same line of thought, but they are just expressed
differently. From the Dao de jing, filial
piety is expressed in when it says, “When the six relations were no longer
harmonious, there were filial children. When the realm fell into disorder,
there were loyal ministers.”6
This seems to completely contradict the Confucian thought of the way filial
piety is expressed by  the utmost respect
for one’s parents. The Daoist take on filial piety is saying that when there is
conflict that occurs in a family, then it is going against what it means to be
filial to one’s elders. It also implies that there is an action that would need
to happen in order to correct the conflict. This action, however, would not be
coming naturally from the heart which goes against the nature of the Dao. There
would be no conflict if the natural filial piety was expressed from the very
beginning of the family. The expression of filial piety through inaction, also
known as wu wei, is the true understanding of filial piety because it exists
naturally. When one follows the Dao, actions are performed effortlessly and
there is no difference between action and inaction. Laozi is saying that the
true nature of filial piety is shown when it is not force upon a child to be
respectful to his/her parents and to provide service to them as well, but when
it is the nature way of the person and it is the way it is.

is another train of thought that practices filial piety in its religious
practices. The concept of filial piety in Buddhist teachings are also different
than those of Confucianism teachings because of the fact that many Buddhists
looking to attain enlightenment leave behind their family, including their
parents, in order to practice the Dharma in a monastery. It is also common
practice for Buddhist monks to become celibate and not be able to have children
to carry on their family name. A Buddhist story that expresses what it means
for a child to be filial to his/her parent is the story of Miao Shan. Miao Shan
was the third daughter of the king of China. Her father decided that he wanted
to marry her off, but she wished to become a Buddhist nun. The king finally
agrees to let this happen but tries to make her life as difficult as possible.
This, however, does not dissuade her from wanted to become a Buddhist nun, so
he then orders that his army go into nunnery that she is studying in and burn
it to the ground. After surviving this attack, Miao Shan moves into the remote
mountain region where she is able to mediate in peace. At the same time, her
father is becoming dangerously ill and the only medicine that is about to cure
him is made from the eye and arm from a living person without anger. He sends
his troops out to find this person and discovers that it is none other than his
daughter that he tried to kill. She willingly gives her eye and both of her
arms to the king without a second thought in order to save his live.7 This
story exhibits filial piety at its finest and almost one-ups the Confucianism
way of thought. Miao Shan left her parents behind in the quest to study the
Dharma and attain enlightenment, but when her father came to her in need, she
gave up her eye and both arms in order to save his life, even after he tried to
take hers.  She harbors no anger or
resentment towards her father for his actions and she selflessly responds when
he is in need of help. Another story that shows filial piety in a less obvious
way is The Platform Sutra. The Sutra
tells a story about Hui-neng who leaves his mother behind in order to study the
Dharma. His father died early and it was just him and his mother left. Before
he left for the monastery, he made sure that he made arrangements for his
mother and left her with enough money to survive. Hui-neng did not just leave
her behind without thinking about her well-being.8
The simple action of doing this shows a subtler example of being a filial son.

concept of filial piety is not a new one in the Chinese culture and it is
embraced in all three of China’s main religions: Confucianism, Daoism, and
Buddhism. Although the idea is seen in the religions, it is exhibited in
different ways. Confucianism promotes children to have the utmost respect for
their parents and ancestors and lays out multiple ways in which a child has to
be filial. Daoism believes that filial piety naturally exists and through wu
wei, no conflicts would arise. Buddhism shows that even though many of the
monks that study the Dharma have left behind their families, they still show
signs of filial piety. Even though all three of these religions are different,
the concept of filial piety a common thread between them.


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