Rén – Benevolence/Loving kindness

The foundation of Chinese philosophy is found in the life and writings of Confucius.

Confucius, via, Public domain

He described five “constant” (unchanging) virtues or wǔ​cháng (五常).

They are: benevolence/loving kindness or rén (仁), righteousness or yì (义), propriety or lǐ (理), wisdom or zhì (智) and truthfulness/trust or xìn (信).

Please note benevolence/loving kindness or rén (仁) is always listed first.

“Benevolence” means a lot of things in English including: kindness, compassion, good will, decency, consideration and thoughtfulness. Many translate it as love.

There are many compound words in Chinese using rén:

仁义 rén​yì – Benevolence and righteousness

仁爱 rén​’ài – Benevolence / charity / compassion

仁术 rén​shù – kindness / benevolence / to govern in humanitarian way

…and many four syllable Chinese proverbs called 成语 chéng​yǔ that include the word rén:

仁民爱物 rén​mín​’ài​wù – love to all creatures (idiom, from Mencius); universal benevolence

仁言利博 rén​yán​lì​bó – Words of benevolence apply universally (idiom). Humanitarian expressions benefit all.

Rén is the foundation virtue of Confucianism. It characterizes a model human being in the promotion of a flourishing human community.

Benevolence/Love in Christianity

Rén is little or no different from the Christian version of love.

“Jesus said unto him, ‘You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, ‘You shall love thy neighbor as thyself.

Adapted from: Matthew 22:37-39, King James Version

These are the foundation beliefs of Christianity.

Some or many Confucian scholars might assert that “love” is not a good translation for Rén because in English speaking countries the word “love” is used with many different meanings. For example: “I love your shirt!” Such a comment could be similar to or the same as Rén depending on the motivation. If your friend is sad, and you wish to make him/her feel better, then it is benevolence. But, if the motivation is to flatter or entice another into illicit behavior, then it is very different. “Loving kindness” however would be a better, more accurate translation in accordance with the Chinese meaning, and the meaning in other religious philosophies as well.

Benevolence/Love in Islam

In Islam we find one of the names of God is: Al-Wadood.

Al-Wadood” is an Attribute derived from the Arabic word ”wudd” which conveys the meaning of love and friendship, and it applies to all avenues of goodness.

The perfection of such following is that anger, grudge, or harm received do not stop anyone who exemplifies this Attribute in his conduct from favoring others over himself and from being good to them; thus, are we taught by our master the Messenger of Allah (S); have you been taught differently?! Four of his teeth were once broken, and his face was bleeding, yet all of that uncalled for abuse to which he was exposed at the hands of the infidels did not stop him from praying for them or from wishing them good.

That does sound rather similar, or identical to the concept of “turn the other cheek.”

And thus, the talk and even a book about the inevitability of a “clash of civilizations” is ridiculous, profitable to a few, harmful to the many and quite the opposite of the teachings of the greatest religious philosophers in history who if left alone in a garden together would certainly have gotten along marvelously with each other.

It is also interesting to note that Confucius lived about 500 years before Holy Jesus was born, and 1,070 years before the Holy Prophet Mohammad was born.

Here is a cheerful thought for the visitor to this site:

By Mark Tacatani.