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The Great Learning of Confucius as a Solution to Improve Society

Updated on January 11, 2015

Confucius' Great Learning may be written centuries ago, but its applicability in the modern times still upholds. In today's context, the Great Learning may come into play to mitigate or even eliminate the major social predicaments of our nation. But what is the meaning of the Great Learning? How can we apply it our society?

Endowed with a very diverse range of resources, every country has vast potential in attaining development and growth. However, past and current situations provide us a reality check telling that some countries fail to maximize that potential. Some individuals claim that this deterrence is mainly brought about by how people think and how they perceive themselves, the people around them and their country itself.

There are a fair share of people looming over the ideologies of dismay, despair and hopelessness. But these are not the fatal beliefs that put the progress into a halt. Most of the citizens are bound and chained in the ideologies of social apathy, selfishness and self-centricity. All these negatively affects their own perceptions and thoughts. And when thoughts are impaired, inappropriate action, as well as inaction, will follow.

In a certain degree and in some aspect, the current state of various countries today can be likened to the “warring states” during Confucius’ time. Confined in the previously mentioned ideologies, there are individuals who tend to deviate from collective effort. Some have lost trust in their fellow citizens which force them to trust only themselves and treat others like “competitors”. As a result, a “war”, in a lighter scheme, emerges. Comparatively, citizens are experiencing “social unrest” in terms of lack of financial security (which then causes crime rates to increase). Hence, with seemingly similar case, the Great Learning might be able to address all these circumstances.

The Great Learning is a way of thinking and a way of life governed by natural laws of love, respect, and trust. This contains simple yet relevant teachings that are applicable in one’s everyday life. Love, respect and trust are values that most of people have started to lack. And it is through Great Learning, that they might be able to regain all these back again which will pave the way in making development and advancement possible.

Confucius, the author of the Great Learning
Confucius, the author of the Great Learning

The Meaning and Application of The Great Learning

To order the states, regulate the families

It may be true that there are a lot of people who are family-integrated, but it may not be always true that their families themselves are principle-integrated. We have a saying that everything starts at home, and perhaps it really is. Principles and values should be formed, nurtured and cultivated at home, and unfortunately, some families fail to do these. Parents, in some cases, were even the ones who feed their children with false ideologies. Confucius tells us that this should not be the case, because it is important to regulate the families in order to order the states.

To regulate the families, cultivate the persons

We emphasize earlier the role of parents in raising their children in good manners and values. This is important because their children would be the parents in next generation. Hence, it will create a cycle. If you put junk in the process, all these junks will flow in the cycle indefinitely.

To cultivate the persons, rectify the hearts

Hearts here symbolizes emotions and feelings. This means that, in order for a person to be cultivated, he must be responsive to issues and be open for changes. This highlights the need to be socially aware and responsive. We live in an environment of social apathy where we ignore things around us. We become blind, deaf and numb. This is what this teaching wants to change. It wants us to learn how to rectify the hearts in order to see the problems around us, to hear the pleas of the needy and to feel the need for change.

To rectify the hearts, seek to be sincere in thoughts

Trust is a fundamental principle in life. Hence, this teaching wants us to be sincere in thoughts so that we may earn the trust from other people. By being sincere, we become true to ourselves, and hence, we regain consciousness about the reality (i.e. how appalling the condition of the country is now). This is what most of us tend to forget. We made ourselves believe in an illusion luring us to be unresponsive to our societal needs. With this teaching, we will become sincere to ourselves, and we will start to accept the truth.

To be sincere in thoughts, extend to the utmost knowledge

How will we be able to distinguish truth from an illusion? It is through knowledge that makes it possible to know the difference between what is real and what is not. Knowledge is a powerful tool that pries us away from deception. We are deceived by our false concepts and ideologies in life. We need to break free.

Extend knowledge by investigating things

It is not true that knowledge can only be received through education. Hence, it is never an excuse to be ignorant and to blame our inability to go to school. Knowledge can be earned by simply investigating things in life. Though, I am not denying that education is indeed one of the primary keys in achieving utmost knowledge.

By being able to fulfill all these, we may be able to address the ultimate problem of the society.

“Knowledge being complete, thoughts are since. Thoughts being sincere, hearts are rectified. Hearts being rectified, persons are cultivated. Persons being cultivated, families are regulated. Families are regulated, state are governed. States rightly governed, the entire world is at peace (The Great Learning, Confucius).”

Progressive Change

Some countries may not have been able to maximize its potential to achieve economic growth and development. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to attain such. By realigning the principles and values of the people, they will be granted the true meaning and power of change.

The Great Learning upon its application aids us in expanding our knowledge that will be utilized in realizing the values of love, selflessness, trust, respect and hope. Through these, nations will learn how to battle against social evils that are deterring their most-sought progressive change.


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