The modern age could do worse than to revisit and emulate the sage Confucius, who around 500 BC searched, researched and rescued the very best elements of Chinese civilization and lived and taught these precepts. He set an example that was emulated by his disciples and subsequently taught for the next 2500 years, forming a bedrock of Chinese civilization. Confucius did not want to create anything new, but rather identify, collate and pass on the best of the ancient ethics, morals, rituals, behaviors and principles of the past. He did not much concern himself with gods, theology, or religious dogma, but rather with the practical elements of living a good life. He taught his version of the golden rule, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” He also expressed this as “Never impose on others what you would n not choose for yourself.” He respected all the ancient religious traditions but focused on living the Way, involving empathy, goodness, righteousness, benevolence, humaneness, and the five cardinal virtues, seriousness, generosity, seriousness, diligence and kindness. He prized study, knowledge and learning, along with music and poetry. Most of all, he cherished and valued the core traditions that had stood the test of time and produced good results.
What if we applied Confucius’ methods today? What if we surveyed the vastly larger set of the best traditions of humanity available to us now? We could use the core ethical, moral, and philosophical learnings of all the world’s religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism, Shinto, the Baha’i Faith and others. The specifics dogmas, theologies and mythologies may vary, but the core ethical principles are similar. One might choose to live according to the specific traditions of done particular religion, but still respect the learning, virtue and sacredness of all other religions traditions, sages and prophets. Or if one could not accept any specific religion, one could still embrace the ethical and spiritual core of all of them. In China, such an updated Confucianism might be a religion with Chinese characteristics. In the West and worldwide, rather than a minimal syncretism based on a smorgasbord of whatever elements each person liked and chose, it could be a maximalist perennial philosophy.