Early Buddhist and Confucian Concepts of Filial Piety: A Comparative Study

Guang Xing

Abstract


There are only a few modern scholars who have made comparative studies on Buddhist and Confucian concepts of fillial piety. Michihata Ryoshu and Zhong Yulian have done so, but they both discuss the filial concepts of the two schools separately, one after the other. Therefore, in a real sense, theirs are not comparative studies, because they neither discuss the similarities and differences nor analyze the causes behind them. In this paper, I mainly confine myself to the early texts of both schools of thought, in which we can only find the basic definition of the concept of filial piety and how the concept has been developed and changed in later writings. After summarizingand analyzing the concepts of filial piety in both Buddhism andConfucianism, I have found that there are five similarities and three differences between the two schools; furthermore, Confucianism has two aspects which are not shared by Buddhism. The reasons behind these are that filial piety is the foundation as well as the highest norm in Confucian ethics and all morality and civilization come from it. By contrast, filial piety in Buddhism is not the foundation of its ethics, although it is an important ethical teaching of the Buddha. Instead, the concepts of karma and samsāra are the bases of Buddhist ethics.

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