Boston Confucians

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Boston Confucians are a group of "New Confucians" from Boston, of whom the best known are Tu Wei-Ming of Harvard, John Berthrong and Robert Neville of Boston University.

Boston Confucianism refers to those who hold that Confucianism could be successfully adapted to a Western perspective. Confucianism is seen as a tradition with rich spiritual and cultural resources that can inform other world traditions. Boston Confucianism also argues for the transportability of Confucianism to geographical locations beyond Asia proper. The internationalized character of Boston Confucianism is to a great extent a central feature in the second generation of the New-Confucians.

(Both Platonism and Christianity began as such portable traditions, which could be practiced outside of the Greek and Jewish roots which originally generated them.) However, this is a view that is common to New Confucians in general, whether from Boston, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong or Singapore. Indeed, there are contemporary advocates of Confucianism who are not New Confucians, but who would agree that Confucianism is not geographically or culturally parochial, any more than Buddhism or Islam have been. (Philip J. Ivanhoe, Joel J. Kupperman and David B. Wong would fall into this latter category.) Consequently, "Boston Confucian" is a term more closely linked to geography than intellectual content.

More than being a coherent system of ideas, Boston Confucianism is an experimental concept that seeks to creatively explore different applications of Confucianism in the age of globalization. In 2014 a new generation of scholars at Boston University have established the "Boston University Confucian Association" (BUCA). Weekly lectures and other activities are open to students and the public. A closed group at Facebook started recently called, "Friends from Afar: A Confucianism Group." Bin Song of Boston University has published several articles for The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bin-song/

Go to <https://open.bu.edu/handle/2144/49> and download "A Sermon: Exploring the Dao," by Dr. John Berthrong. "The Dao" was delivered at First Parish Milton on 10/22/00. Tu Wei-ming's entry for "The Meaning of Life" could be the most accessible statement on the Confucian tradition in our time. <http://www.maryellenmark.com/text/magazines/life/905W-000-037.html>

"The Meaning of Life" by Tu Wei-ming (1988) “Copernicus decentered the earth, Darwin relativized the god-like image of man, Marx exploded the ideology of social harmony, and Freud complicated our conscious life. They have redefined humanity for the modern age. Yet they have also empowered us, with a communal, critical self-awareness, to renew our faith in the ancient Confucian wisdom that the globe is the center of our universe and the only home for us, and that we are the guardians of the good earth, the trustees of the mandate of Heaven that enjoins us to make our bodies healthy, our hearts sensitive, our minds alert, our souls refined and our spirits brilliant...........We are here because embedded in our human nature is the secret code for heaven’s self-realization. Heaven is certainly omnipresent, may even be omniscient, but is most likely not omnipotent. It needs our active participation to realize its own truth. We are heaven’s partners, indeed co creators. We serve heaven with common sense, the lack of which nowadays has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. Since we help heaven to realize itself through our self-discovery and self-understanding in day-to-day living, the ultimate meaning of life is found in our ordinary human existence.”

"The Western Inscription" by Chang Tsai (11th Century) is a favorite of the New Confucians or Boston Confucians, as it points toward ecological concerns: "Heaven is my father and earth is my mother, and even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore, that which extends throughout the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my mature. All people are my brothers and sisters and all things are my companions. Respect the aged...Show affection toward the orphaned and weak...The sage identifies his character with Heaven and earth, and the virtuous man is best. {among the children of Heaven and earth}. Even those who are tired and infirm, crippled and sick, those who have no brothers or children, wives or husbands, are all my brothers who are in distress and have non one to turn to." <http://fore.yale.edu/religion/confucianism/texts/>

The school of Boston Confucianism has become especially well known in academic circles in China. Chinese scholars see it as the first indication of Confucianism's ability to be enthusiastically endorsed by non-Asian North-American scholars and theologians for non-academic purposes.


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