Mencius and the Straight Path

Hong Ren (1610-1663 c.), Dragon Pine on Huangshan.

As I continued studying religion and philosophy, I discovered this passage written by the Confucian philosopher Mencius (371-289 c. BCE).

Humanity is the peaceful abode of men and righteousness is his straight path. What a pity for those who leave the peaceful abode and do not live there, and abandon the straight path and do not follow it!

The Mencius Book 4, Part 1, Ch. 10

I found this passage significant because it demonstrates that philosophers and prophets from different times and places have discovered that walking the straight path is necessary for attaining true happiness, or what Mencius calls ‘the peaceful abode’. It is also important because it emphasises that ‘righteousness’, or virtuous action, is necessary for walking the straight path. Furthermore, it implies that each of us can choose to walk the straight path or not; but it is ‘a pity’ if we choose to abandon the straight path, and this choice has consequences. To refuse to act virtuously and abandon ‘ the peaceful abode’, the place of happiness and fulfillment, is to enter a place of unhappiness, strife and pain. Mencius taught me that this choice is given to each of us and that each of us has the strength to walk the straight path.

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