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Sacred Narratives

The idea of learning from the past is fundamental to Confucian thinking, and the early histories and biographies are the closest thing to sacred narratives in Confucianism. Among the "classics" are many stories that contain a moral component or exemplify an effort to understand why things happened as they did.

Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings

Confucius did not deny the existence of a reality beyond the human world, but he said that the nature of ultimate reality and the intentions and expectations of divinities are beyond human capacity to know or understand. Human morals should therefore be based on human relationships, without reference to some higher order.

Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence

Confucian scholars have long debated essential human nature without reaching agreement as to its fundamental characteristics. Most agree, however, that the purpose of existence is to reach one's highest potential as a human being. Through a rigorous process of self-cultivation that lasts a lifetime, one may eventually become a "perfected person."

Suffering and the Problem of Evil

According to some interpretations of Confucianism, suffering and evil are inevitable in human life, and can promote learning and growth. A mistake is not a "sin," but an opportunity to learn and do better next time. Empathy for the suffering of others also provides motivation to grow morally, but not all humans are capable of empathy.

Afterlife and Salvation

Confucius stated that the afterlife was beyond human comprehension. Humans should live and behave in such a way as to promote ideal social relations, rather than to act based on the expectations of rewards or punishments after death