BENEFICENCE AS THE MORAL FOUNDATION IN WON BUDDHISM
Journal of Chinese Philosophy
Vol. 23 (1996)
Copyright @ 1996 by Dialogue Publishing Company, Honolulu,
Toward a theory of Beneficence
To ask for the foundation of morality in normative ethics
is to ask for what makes right acts right. The foundation of
morality lies in the greatest happiness for the greatest
number according to J.S. Mill and in the universalizability
of a maxim to be a universal moral law according to Kant.
Neither of these theories is free from devastating criticism.
Seeing the untenability of these theories, W.D. Ross develops
the theory of prima facie duty.(2) According to Ross, a
certain action (keeping a promise) is one's prima facie duty,
which can be one's actual duty or duty proper unless there is
another kind of morally significant act. Ross lists six kinds
of prima facie duties: the duties of (1) fidelity and
reparation, (2) gratitude, (3) justice, (4) beneficence, (5)
self-improvement, and (6) non-maleficence. By the prima facie
duty of gratitude Ross means that which rests on previous
acts of other men, i.e. services done by them to me; and by
the prima facie duty of beneficence, that which rests on the
mere fact that there are other beings in the world whose
condition we can make better in respect of virtue, or of
intelligence, or of pleasure. How ever it is not as
self-evident as Ross thinks it is why we have a prima facie
duty of beneficence in the sense of the term he uses though,
perhaps, we have a prima facie duty of gratitude if we owe
someone something. If I owe my life to the beneficence of my
parents, then it makes sense to say that I have a prima facie
duty to requite it and to be grateful to them is a way of
In the ethics of Won Buddhism the duty to requite
beneficence is not only a prima facie but actual duty. For
instance one's filial duty is not only a prima facie duty but
an absolute duty to one's own parents. In the ethics of Won
Buddhism beneficence is not a prima facie duty but the
foundation of moral duties to others.
The basic insight of this theory is the self-evident
truth that we humans owe our life to "the universal
beneficences of nature"(3) just as a fish in the ocean owes
its life to the ocean. The fish may not know its indebtedness
to the beneficence of the ocean even after it is taken out of
it and thrown to the dry ocean even after it is taken out of
it and thrown to the dry beach. Sot'aesan (1891-1943), the
founder of Won Buddhism as a religious order, defines
"beneficence" as that without which our life is impossible
and identifies the universal beneficences of nature with the
beneficences of Heaven and Earth, Parents, Brethren, and Law
which he calls 'the four beneficences."(4) The expression
"four beneficences" is not new with Sot'aesan as it is found
in some of the Buddhist scriptures with different items in
different literature.(5) What is new with Won Buddhism is the
identification of the four beneficences with Buddha's cosmic
body (Dharmakaya Buddha) and the actual worship of Buddha's
cosmic body, the four beneficences, is perforrmed by
requiting the beneficences in daily life in accordance with
moral rules which are derived from them.
Morality as a Means
Sot'aesan's motive behind founding Won Buddhims was to
"deliver sentient beings" suffering in the bitter seas of
misery and "cure the world of illness." These two goals are
to be realized by faith in a truthful religion and training
in sound morality. Thus morality or moral system is used as a
means to the realization of the religious goals of Won
Buddhism. In Won Buddhism the object of religious worship is
the cosmic body of Buddha (Dharmakaya Buddha) which is
manifested as the four beneficences and related to us as the
four sources of our life.
The moral system of Won Buddhism is compared to a medical
institution; if no one is ever ill, no medicine or a
physician will be necessary. If the world is not morally ill,
no religious institution will be necessary to cure the moral
illness of the world. In Sot'aesan's view, one of the main
factors which change the world into "bitter seas of misery"
is resentment which one harbors in one's heart toward others.
One becomes resentful when one is unaware of one's
indebtedness to the source of beneficences to which one owes
one's life. In Sot'aesan's view one can change a hell to a
paradise if one knows how to change resentment to gratitude
and one can do so only if one is aware of the universal
beneficences of Buddha's cosmic body, namely, those of
Heaven and Earth, Parents, Brethren and Law. Thus, one of the
platforms of Won Buddhism is stated in an imperative: Be
aware of beneficence and requite it. The requital of
beneficence as a moral principle is put into practice by a
reformed Buddhist religious practice of reverent offerings to
Buddha as it is expressed in a motto: Everywhere is Buddha's
image, hence do all things as a reverent offering to Buddha.
The actual way of a reverent offering to Buddha lies in
requiting the four beneficences.
In Sot'aesan's view it is hard to prove that Buddha image
enshrined in Buddhist temples can respond to the prayers of
the layman either with blessings or punishments; while it is
easy to prove and explain how the four beneficences can
respond with blessings or punishment. In his view it is
unreasonable and superstitious to pray to the Buddha image
for blessings while offending any of the four sources of
beneficence. It is irrational, for instance, to pray for
blessings to the Buddha image enshrined in a Buddhist temple
when it is a matter of medical concern. Thus requiting
beneficence is a new way of reverent offering to Buddha.
FOUR BENEFICENCES AS THE SOURCE OF MORAL DUTIES
By beneficence' Sot'aesan means the relation between two
agents, one of which cannot exist without the other.In this
sense of the term 'beneficence' one is indebted to the four
beneficences. As a proof of this
truth. he asks us to think, in order to know our indebtedness
to the four beneficences, whether we could preserve our
existence without them. He challenges us to think whether we
could preserve our existence without Heaven and Earth,(6)
whether we could have brought our bodies into this world and
nourish ourselves without our parents,(7) whether we could
survive alone where there are no other human beings, animals
and plants,(8) or whether peace and order can be maintained
unless there are laws of moral cultivation for individuals,
of managing a household, of regulating a society, of ruling a
nation, and of keeping the world in peace.(9) Even an
imbecile will understand that one's life is impossible
without them and nothing can be a greater beneficence than
that without which one's life is impossible. Thus one owes
one's life to the four beneficences and no further argument
is necessary for the proof of our indebtedness to the four
Once it is proven that one is indebted to the four
beneficences, no further argument is necessary to prove it is
one's prima facie duty to requite it. Sot'aesan thinks it a
matter of necessary course to requite the beneficence to
which one owes one's own life. Requital of beneficence is
thus a general moral duty in Won Buddhism. From the religious
aspect of the doctrine, the four beneficences are
incarnations of Buddha's cosmic body (Dharmakaya Buddha) with
the power to bless or punish. From the moral aspect they are
the foundation of moral duty; our moral duties are derived
from the fact that without them our life is impossible and
that the beneficence ought to be requited.
Now the two principles, religious and moral, are
assimilated to each other by the imperative that one ought to
requite beneficence as a way of reverent offering to
Buddha.(10) If, for instance,I treat other human beings on
the basis of fairness as required by the rule of requital of
the beneficence of Brethren, I will be treating them as
Buddhas and thus be blessed as they have the power to bless
or punish. If, however, I treat them unfairly, violating the
moral principle of fairness, I will be punished by them, the
living Buddhas. In what follows will be explained Sot'aesan's
views on how one is indebted to, and how one ought to
beneficences as moral duties
The Beneficence of Heaven and Earth
Sot'aesan's metaphysical view of Heavcn and Earth is that
the automatic rotation of the grand framework of the universe
is in accordance with the ways of Heaven and Earth and the
result of their rotation is their virtues.(11) The virtues of
Heaven and Earth are exemplified in the brightness of the sun
and moon, owing to which we can discern and know myriads of
things and the favors of the wind, clouds, rain and dew,
owing to which myriads of living beings are nurtured and we
are able to survive off their products.(12)
In the ways of Heaven and Earth Sot'aesan finds eight
beneficent characteristics, from which he derives eight moral
maxims for humankind. The ways of Heaven and Earth are (i)
extremely bright, (ii) extremely sincere, (iii) extremely
fair, (iv) natural, (v) vast and limitless, (vi) eternal,
(vii) without good or ill fortunes, and (viii) omnipresently
responsive without harboring the idea of having done favors.
That there are ways of Heaven and Earth in which the sage
finds the moral standard is not new with Sot'aesan; we can
find the same view in the Confucian tradition. Chou Tun-i
(1017-1073), who quotes from the I-Ching or the Book of
Changes,(13) and commented on by Chu Hsi(1130-1200), says:
.. Thus (the sage) establishes himself as the
ultimate standard for man. Hence, the character of
the sage is identical with that of Heaven and Earth;
his brilliance is identical with that of the sun and
the moon;his order is identical with that of the
seasons and his good and evil fortunes are identical
with those of spiritual beings.(l4)
Thus the ancient sages found their moral standards in what
they thought was the characteristics of Heaven and Earth.
Sot'aesan does the same thing; his originality lies in
deriving moral duties from the fact that we are
indebted to the beneficence of Heaven and Earth.
The way to requite the beneficence of Heaven and Earth
lies in one's moral improvement by modeling oneself after
their ways This is like requiting the beneficence of one's
own teacher by practicing her teaching.(15) Thus, following
the moral rules derived from the eight characteristics of the
ways of Heaven and Earth one is to improve one's moral
virtues. Now the ways of requiting their beneficences are
stated in terms of eight maxims, which require one to model
oneself after the eight characteristics of their ways listed
(i) The first maxim requires one to model after the
brightness of their ways when one should investigate facts
and principles.(l6) The reason one must understand such
principles is that one's moral conduct will be based on one's
view of the world and one's self. In Sot'aesan's view, moral
problems arise from foolishness and lack of knowledge of
right and wrong, or what is advantageous or disadvantageous.
No one in that state can be a reliable moral agent. Hence one
must learn facts and principles to attain such wisdom and
knowledge, modeling oneself on the brightness of Heaven and
(ii) The second maxim requires one to model on their
way of sincerity and be consistent in sincerity when one
tries to accomplish anything good. The term 'sincerity" is
used not only with its usual meaning of truthfulness and
honesty but with the meaning of wholehearted devotion.
According to Sot'aesan, nothing is more sincere in this sense
than Heaven and Earth. This idea can be found in the
Confucian tradition. "Sincerity is the Way of Heaven and the
attainment of sincerity, or attempt to be sincere is the way
of man."(17) Mencius(c.371-c. 289 B.C.) says, "... Sincerity
is the way of Heaven. To think how to be sincere is the way
of man. Never has there been one possessed of complete
sincerity, who did not move others. Never has there been one
who had not sincerity who was able to move others."(18) Now
Sot'aesan suggests that everyone ought to model after the way
of sincerity as a way of requiting the beneficence of Heaven
(iii) The third maxim requires one to model after
their way of fair-
ness, and to follow the Mean without being affected by
remoteness or closeness, or by feelings of joy or sorrow,
anger or pleasure, when one handles myriads of things.(19) In
Sot'aesan's view Heaven and Earth are fair to all when they
rear living beings. The sun shines for all without
discrimination against anyone. When we humans handle our
affairs, however, we are often unfair because we are affected
by remoteness or closeness, or by joy or anger. Unfairness is
one of the moral evils which aggravate the human predicament.
Sot'aesan suggests that we ought to emulate the way of
fairness as a way of requiting their beneficence.
(iv) The fourth maxim requires one to do what is
reasonable and to forsake what is unreasonable, modeling
oneself on the way of reasonableness and naturalness of
Heaven and Earth. There is orderliness in the succession of
four seasons and in the rotation of day and night. Seasons
for sowing and harvesting are not disorderly. To the way of
reasonableness belongs the course of birth, aging, illness
and death of all sentient beings. The purpose of this maxim
is to help one be free from sufferings caused by unreasonable
and unnatural actions. In the mundane world unreasonable
desires, decisions, programs, and plans are often made
aggravating the human predicament.
(v) The fifth maxim requires one, modeling oneself
after the vastness of Heaven and Earth, to practice
impartiality when one handles all sorts of affairs.(20) The
virtue of impartiality in thought and deeds is what people
use as a criterion of moral integrity. Moreover, partiality
in handling human affairs causes unnecessary sufferings for
others. Sot'aesan finds a model for impartiality in the
vastness of Heaven and Earth. As a way of requiting their
beneficence, he suggests that one ought to model oneself on
the way of vastness of Heaven and Earth. Impartiality is a
necessary condition for the most important moral virtue in
the Neo-Confucian tradition, namely, jen (humanity,
humaneness). According to Chu Hsi, '... a man originally
possesses jen. It comes with him from the very beginning.
Simply because he is partial, his jen is obstructed and
cannot be expressed. Therefore, if he is impartial, his jen,
will operate."(21) Sot'aesan's ideal is that this virtue be
(vi)The sixth maxim requires one, modeling oneself on the
way of eternity of Heaven and Earth, to emancipate oneself
from the vicissitude of all things and from the cycle of
birth,old age, illness and death. Things on the earth are
like transient waves while Heaven and Earth are like a
permanent ocean. What Sot'aesan suggests by the maxim is that
one ought to realize the cosmic body of Buddha (Dharmakaya)
which is free from one's bodily birth and death, modeling
oneself on the eternity of Heaven and Earth.
(vii)The seventh maxim requires one to detect misfortune
in good fortune and good fortune in misfortune, modeling
oneself on the way of there being no good or ill fortune in
Heaven and Earth lest one should be caught by either of
them.(22) The point of this maxim is that one ought not to be
blinded or carried away by either good or ill fortune since
'favor or beneficence sometimes arises in harm and harm in
(viii)The eighth maxim requires one, following the way
of Heaven and Earth abiding in no idea of the favor they
bestow, to nourish the mind of no false ideas, viz., there
should be no marks and ideas in mind after rendering favors
to others. One ought not to make an enemy out of the one who
is ungrateful to one's favor. The same virtue is taught in
the Bible: "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand
know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew, 6.3). The moral
virtue of "harboring no idea of self-praising" is one the
moral ideals for both Buddhist and Confucian moralists.
D.T.Suzuki points out that the notion of "non-abiding" or
"harboring no false idea" is a central one in the whole
philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism.(24) We find in the Diamond
Sutra the noted advice, 'One should develop a mind which does
not abide in anything."(25) The attempt to find a model of
this moral virtue in the ways Heaven and Earth was made by
Neo-Confucian philosophers. Cheng-i (1033-1107) said, "Heaven
and Earth create and transform without having any idea of
their own. The sage has a mind of his own but does not take
any (unnatural) action."(26) Obviously the moral virtue
the maxim (viii) is a lofty ideal as it requires one to keep
oneself from assuming a patronizing air and from self-praise
If one practices the eight articles cultivating the eight
moral virtues, one can form one body with Heaven and Earth in
virtue, viz., wisdom (rightness) , sincerity, fairness,
reasonableness and naturalness, magnanimity (vastness)
immortality (eternity), imperturbability in the face of one's
good or ill fortunes, and benevolence (harboring no marks of
false ideas after rendering favors to others). Once one has
perfected one's moral character with these virtues, one's
moral influence on other sentient beings will be like that of
Heaven and Earth, and hence one will be warmly received by
them.(27) This idea is not so exorbitant as it seems; for it
was quite prevalent in the morals of Neo-Confucianism.
Cheng-hao (1032-1085), for instance, said, "the man of jen
regards Heaven and Earth and all things as one body. To him
there is nothing that is not himself. Since he has recognized
all things as himself, can there be any limit to jen?"(28)
Chu Hsi reiterates Cheng-hao's point and Wang Yang-ming does
the same.(29) Sot'aesan has not only revived the Confucian
moral ideals in Won Buddhism but also provided a way of
realizing them through the eight articles of requital of the
beneficence of Heaven and Earth.
If one does not requite the beneficence of Heaven and
Earth, however, one will suffer the consequence; for
ingratitude to Heaven and Earth incurs heavenly
punishment.(30) Although Heaven and Earth are empty and
silent to one's deeds, unexpected hardships and sufferings in
life and sufferings caused by one's deeds are due to the
ingratitude to Heaven and Earth."(31) For one will be (i)
ignorant of facts and principles,(ii) in lack of sincerity in
whatever one does, (iii) either excessive or deficient and
(iv) irrational in many cases of handling human affairs. One
will be (v) partial, (vi) ignorant of the transformation of
the phenomenal world, of the principle of birth, aging,
illness and death, (vii) ignorant of good and ill fortunes,
and ups and downs of the world. When one renders favors to
others, one will be (vii) attached to the idea of having done
so, covertly praising oneself and overtly boasting.
The Beneficence of parents
Sot'aesan lists three articles of one's indebtedness to
one's parents. (i) To one's parents one owes one's body which
is the basis of all facts and principles of life; (ii) with
unlimited love and sacrifice, one's parents have brought up
and protected one until one grows to be self-reliant; and
(iii) one's parents have taught one's duties and
responsibilities to human society.(32)
The filial duty was the weapon used by the Neo-Confucian
moralists to criticize the Buddhist monks who had left their
parents for the monastery life.(33) According to the
Neo-Confucianists, Buddhist monks were egoists afraid of the
difficulties arising in the mundane world. In the Confucian
tradition one's filial duty to one's parents is the
fundamental principle of morality. It is noteworthy,
therefore, to see how the moral duty of filial piety is
renovated in the moral system of Won Buddhism.
According to Confucius filial duty is the foundation of
virtues and root of civilization.(34) Tseng Tzu, one of his
disciples, asked what surpasses filial piety as the virtue of
a sage. To this Confucius replied, "[m]an excels all the
beings in Heaven and Earth.Of all man's acts none is greater
than filial piety. In the practice of filial piety, nothing
is greater than to reverence one's father."(35) He says also,
"[h]e who loves his parents does not dare to act
contemptuously toward others."(36) In Won Buddhism the
concept of filial piety undergoes a drastic change.
The central principle for the requital of the beneficence
of parents lies in modeling oneself after the way of being
indebted to one's parents when helpless and in protecting the
helpless.(37) Now, Sot'aesan thinks that the following four
maxims should be followed as a way of requiting the
beneficence of parents. (i) Follow the way of moral
discipline and the ways man qua man ought to follow.(38) (ii)
Support your parents faithfully as much as you can when they
lack the ability to help themselves, and help them have
spiritual comfort. (iii) In accordance with your ability,
protect the helpless parents of others as your own as much as
you can, during and after the lifetime of your parents. (iv)
After your parents
are deceased, enshrine their pictures and biographical
records and remember them.(39) Thus the main principle of the
requital of the beneficence of parents, formulated as a moral
imperative, is the article (iii). It prohibits one from
harming, exploiting or being inhumane to the weak
(individual, family, or nation). One's filial duty is given a
new meaning by article (i), as it requires one to be a moral
being who has attained the three great powers of emancipation
(Taoist), enlightenment (Buddhist) and the mean (Confucian)
and is capable of requiting the four beneficences. Thus, in
Sot'aesan's moral system, the moral duty of filial piety
requires one to improve one's moral character to the level of
a sage since one must be a sage if one follows the article
Sot'aesan's view on the consequence of ingratitude to the
beneficence of parents reflects Confucius's view on
unfiliality. "So it is that, from the Son of Heaven to the
commoners, if filial piety is not pursued from the beginning
to the end, disasters are sure to follow.(40) Sot'aesan
interprets the consequence of unfiliality in the Buddhist
concept of karma. One's offspring follows one's examples and
this is an inevitable course. Thus, if one is filial, one's
own offspring will be. In accordance with the law of karma
one will be helped and protected whenever necessary since one
protects and helps those in need.(41)
If one does not requite the beneficence of parents, one's
own offspring will follow one's example. One will also be
condemned by those who believe in the morality of filial
duty. Moreover, throughout many lives, one will be deserted
by other people when in need of help, in accordance with the
law of karma, as a result of ingratitude to the beneficence
The Beneficence of Brethren
The term "brethren" here designates all people, birds,
beasts, and plants as well as one's own siblings.(42) But
what beneficence does one receive from other people? Did not
Thomas Hobbes say that people in the state of nature are in
the state of war one against another? Did not
David Hume say that the worst enemy of man is man?
On Sot'aesan's view, humans are capable of either harming
or blessing others; however life is impossible without help
from others. People of different occupations help one another
by exchanging products on thc principle of "mutual benefit"
and thus are indebted to one another. Sot'aesan does not say
that there are no crocks and other morally despicable ones.
By the principle that we are indebted to the beneficence of
Brethren, Sot'aesan means that people in general, sometimes
including crooks, are helped by one another and that without
depending on others life is impossible.
Pointing out the way we are indebted to the beneficence
of Brethren, Sot'aesan spells out the way of requiting it.
The general principle to requite the beneficence of Brethren
Act in accordance with the principle of mutual
benefit based on fairness by which you are indebted
to Brethren, and conduct the exchange among people
of various occupations on the principle of mutual
benefit based on fairness.(43)
With this general principle of justice(44) Sot'aesan
spells out five maxims which require men of various
occupations to exchange what they can offer with others on
the principle of mutual benefit based on fairness. (45) Thus
people of all walks of life (scholars, civil service
employees, farmers, artisans and tradesmen) ought to follow
the principle of mutual benefit when they exchange what they
have with others.
As a way of justifying the principle of fairness
Sot'aesan considers the consequences of gratitude and
ingratitude to the beneficence of Brethren. If grateful,
people will be blessed in a paradise. If we requite the
beneficence of Brethren, fellow humans will be influenced by
the virtue of mutual benefit and will bear good will to one
another. In such a society one will be protected and
respected; individuals will be endeared one to another;
families will promote mutual friendships and there will be
mutual understanding among societies; and peace among
This end in view is the guiding force of Won Buddhism, the
founding motive of which was to deliver all sentient beings
suffering in the bitter seas of misery to an earthly
Ingratitude to the beneficence of Brethren will drive all
brethren to hate and abhor one another and make them mutual
enemies, causing quarrels among individuals, ill-will among
families, antagonism among societies, and war among nations.
(47) Hence, people should relize the beneficence of Brethren
and honor the rule of mutual benefit based on the principle
The Beneficence of Law
It sounds unnatural to say that we are indebted to the
beneficence of Law. However, this idea is not new with
Sot'aesan and it will be much less unnatural if we recall
what Socrates said in the Crito:
What charge do you bring against us (the laws) and
the state, that you are trying to destroy us? Did we
not give you life in the first place?....Are you not
grateful to those of laws which are instituted for
this end, for requiring your father to give a
cultural and physical education?(48)
By "Law" Sot'aesan means (i) religious and moral
teachings which sages show for us to follow; (ii) the laws
with which scholars, farmers, artisans and tradesmen direct
and encourage us to preserve our life and advance our
knowledge; and (iii) the judicial institutions which help
punish injustice and serve justice and help discriminate
right from wrong and advantage from disadvantage.(49) Thus
the term "law" covers religious and moral principles, social
institutions and legislation, and civil and penal laws. The
connotation which Sot'aesan assigns to the term is "the
principle of fairness for human justice." This is the
principle by which, when applied, individuals, families,
societies, nations, and the whole world can be benefited.(50)
Upon showing how we are indebted to the beneficence of
Law, Sot'aesan formulates the general rule for requiting it
and then derives five moral duties. The basic moral principle
that we ought to requite the beneficence of Law is:
If we are indebted to the prohibition of certain
things by the laws, we ought not to do them and if
we are indebted to the things encouraged by the
laws, then we ought to do them.(51)
Chastisement of injustice is like cutting the top of a
noxious plant leaving its roots intact. On Sot'aesan's view,
a moral agent, in order to be able to realize justice, needs
a much wider moral education than being instructed of
rightness and wrongness of an action. The moral education
must include, as a preparation for the requital of the
beneficence of Law, learning and practicing (i) the way of
individual moral cultivation, (ii) the way of regulating
one's family, (iii) the way of harmonizing the society, (iv)
the way of governing the state, and (v) the way of putting
the world at peace as an individual person and as a member of
a family, society, nation and the world respectively.(52)
Sot'aesan does not specify in the five articles the
method of cultivating individual morality, of regulating a
family, of social harmony, of statecraft, or of obtaining
world peace. All those methods, however, must be based on the
principle of justice and must provide a way of realizing
justice in individuals, families, societies, states and the
world. Sot'aesan's idea here reflects the moral, educational
and political programs of the Confucian tradition summarized
in the Great Learning.(53) The main aim of the Great Learning
is to show how to illustrate the illustrious virtue
throughout the world, which starts with the individual moral
cultivation. Sot'aesan does not mention the illustrious
virtue; his ideal is that everyone realize human justice. It
is not the time for the world to rely for its well-being on
the manifestation of the ruler's illustrious virtue it is
time for the mass of people to realize justice for the sake
of their own well-being. Otherwise the bitter seas of misery
will get deeper.
Sot'aesan gives a simple answer to the question why we
should requite the beneficence of Law in terms of blessings
and punishment. If we are grateful to it, we will be
protected by it; and if not, we will be punished, bound, and
restrained. Further the requital of the beneficence of Law
improves our dignity as a person since we cultivate our moral
character with the teachings of sages. The world composed of
people who do not requite the beneficence of Law will be
disordered and will drive itself into shambles.(54)
When Sot'aesan established a new religious order, he
synthesized the two moral systems of Buddhism and
Confucianism by reforming and renovating some of the central
tenets of both systems so that the religious and moral
teachings of both systems could be relevant to the new era.
In Sot'aesan's view the ills of the world can be cured only
if people feel indebted and grateful to the four
beneficences. He explains how we are indebted to them and why
we should requite them. He derives moral duties from the way
we are indebted to them and uses the religious force to help
us put our hearts into the moral duties, saying that a
reverent offering to Buddha is none other than requiting the
four beneficences. Since the moral duties to requite the four
beneficences are mostly Confucianistic and thus this-worldly,
and since the four beneficences are identified with the
cosmic body of Buddha, Sot'aesan is suggesting that we
practice the two teachings in our daily life. And the
requital of the four beneficences of Heaven and Earth,
Parents, Brethren and Law is summarized for practice as: (1)
Harbor no false idea after rendering favors, (2) Protect the
helpless, (3) Handle all affairs on the basis of mutual
benefit; and (4) Do justice and forsake injustice
1. This is an expanded recast of the section V Synthesis
of Moral Duties of article, in the Journal of Chinese
Philosophy. Thus some of the material in that article
can be found repeated in this paper.
2. The Right and the Good(Oxford: Clarendon Press,1930),
pp 16-24, 28-41.
3. The expression used by R. Niebuhr quoted in The Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary under the entry
"beneficence." It is self-evident that we human beings
cannot exist without the beneficence of the sun.
4. Wonbulgyo Kyojon (Scriptures of Won Buddhism) (Iri:
Wonbulgyo Kyomubu, 1962) p.26. This work is referred to
as Kyojon hereafter.The four beneficences in Won
Buddhism are: Chonji un (the beneficence of Heaven and
Earth), Pumo un (the beneficence of parents), Tongp'o
un (the beneficence of brethren), and Pomnyur un (the
beneficence of law).
5. The four beneficences of parents, sentient beings,
sovereign, and three treasures in Hsin-ti-kuan-ching
Taisho shinshu daizokyo [T hereafter] (Tokyo:
Taisho shinshu daizokyo kanko kai,1914-1922 )no. 159
Chuan 2; The four beneficences of mother, father,
Tathagata the great teacher, and preacher in Cheng-fa
nien-ch'u-ching 61 T no.721 in Vol. 17) ; The four
beneficences of parents, teachers, sovereign, and
patrons in Shih-Shih yao-lan Chuan 2 on grace and
filial piety (T no.2127, vol.54).
6. Kyojon p.26.
7. Kyojon p.32.
8. Kyojon p.35.
9. Kyojon pp.38-39.
10. Kyojon p.9.
11. Kyojon p.27.
12. Kyojon pp.27-28. It is assumed that without the sun no
living being can exist on the earth.
13. James Legge, tr. The Yi King, The Sacred Books of the
East Vol.16 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, 1967 ),
14. Chu-Hsi and Lu Tsu-ch'ien, Reflections on Things at
Hand, tr.Wing-tsit Chan (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1967), p.6. "Chu Hsi, Reflections" hereafter.
15. Kyojon p.283.
16. By "facts" are meant rightness and wrongness, good and
evil in human affairs; and by "principle" such
metaphysical first principle of the universe as
noumena and phenomena, being and non-being. The latter
includes rising, abiding, decay and void of the
universe, the rotation of four seasons, and birth,
aging, illness and death of all things.
17. James Legge, tr. Confucius: Confucian Analects, The
Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1893), p.413.
18. James Legge, tr., The Works of Mencius, The Chinese
Classics vol 2.(0xford: Clarendon Press, 1895), p.
19. Kyojon pp.28-29.
20. Kyojon p.29.
21. Chu Hsi and Lu Tsu-ch'ien, Reflections, p.62.
22. Kyojon p.29.
23. Kyojon p.23.
24. D.T. Suzuki,Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1930 )P.95
25. Chin-kang po-jo po-lo-mi ching T 235.8.749c.
26. Wing-tsit Chan tr. & ed., A Sourcebook in Chinese
Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1963), P.643. This work is referred to as Chan,
27. Kyojon p.30.
28. Chan, Sourcebook, p.530.
29. Chu Hsi and Lu Tsu-ch'ien,Reflections, p. 63; Wang
Yang-ming, Instructions for Practical Living tr.
Wing-tsit Chan,(New York: Columbia University Press,
1963). p. 272.
30. Kyojon p.30.
31. Kyojon p.31
32. Kyojon p.32
33. Chan, Sourcebook, p.646.
34. Mary Lelia Makra tr., The Hsiao Ching (New York: St
John's University Press, 1961), p.3. "Makra, Hsiao
35. Ibid p.19.
36. Ibid p.5.
37. Kyojon p.32.
38. The threefold moral disicipline includes Mental
Cultivation, Enquiry into
Facts and Principles and Right Conduct; the way man qua
man ought to follow is the requital of the four
39. Kyojon pp.32-33.
40. Makra. The Hsiao Ching, p.3.
41. Kyojon pp.33-34.
42. Kyojon pp.34-35.
43. Kyojon pp.34-35.
44. Sot'aesan seems to have anticipated John Rawls's theory
of justice as fairness.
45. Kyojon pp.36-37.
46. Kyojon p.37.
47. Kyojon p.38.
48. F. Hamilton and H. Ciarns, eds., The Collected
Dialogues of Plato (New York: Bollingen Foundation,
49. Kyojon pp.39-40.
50. Kyojon p.39.
51. Kyojon P.40.
52. Kyojon p.40.
53. Legge, Confucius p.357-358.
54. Kyojon p.41.
essay in (C.:Chinese, K.:Korean, J.:Japanese)
Ch'eng Hao (C) 程颢
Ch'eng I (C) 程颐
Cheng-fa nien-ch'u-ching (C) 正法念处经
Ch'onji-un (K) 天地恩
Chou Tun-i(C) 周敦颐
Chu Hsi (C) 朱熹
Hsiao-ching (C) 孝经
jen (C) 仁
Lu Tsu-ch'ien (C) 吕祖谦
Pomnyur-un (K) 法律恩
Pumo-un (K) 父母恩
Hsin-ti-kuan-ching (C) 心地观经
Shih-shih yao-lan (C) 释氏要览
Sot'aesan (K) 少太山
Taisho shinshu daizokyo (J) 大正新修大藏经
Tseng Tsu (C) 曾子
Tongp'o-un (K) 同胞恩
Wonbulgyo kyojon (K) 圆佛教教典
Yi King (C) 易经