Death and Funeral Rites:
Zhuangzi’s Attitude in Comparison with Mengzi’s and Mozi’s View
The early Chinese practices that accompanied death and funeral borrow the ideologies from Confucius (“Mengzi” 21). His teachings incline to more engaging rites than those of the new sophists such as Zhuangzi teach. The community takes part in the passage of elaborate entombment and a long period of mourning that follows it. The tradition requires the deceased to be buried with some of his or her belongings. Zhuangzi has an attitude that diverges from the practices and his predecessor’s ethics; we derive his feelings towards the transformation and the rites that accompany it.
According to Zhuangzi, bereavement is a part of the natural process that all human beings pass through; therefore, it should not disrupt the normal running of activities for those left behind. In particular, the transformation is a divine process that is not under control of human beings. Communal praxes cannot reverse the nature of death; consequently, they should be as elaborate as it is possible. Since it is part of life, the activities that follow in the show of respect for the dead should make them better people in terms of emotional competence than draining them of their resources and feelings.
Human beings are aware that one day they will cease to exist at some point. For this reason, a tendency of being overly surprised by the demise of one person should not be embraced. Zhuangzi’s perception towards the divine transformation is the target for criticism, especially, when his wife dies, and he just beats a drum briefly to mourn her. He gives a rationale that before being born, she was nothing. Alternatively, after her death, she returned to nothingness. Therefore, he knew she would pass away one day throughout the time he lived with her. Zhuangzi mourns his wife according to his principles and then returns to his routine. Though several of his acquaintances question his mode of grieving, he does not hesitate to present his reason. All along, he seems to have prepared for his wife’s death (“Chuang-Tzu” 23).
Zhuangzi’s beliefs and practices of elaborate lamentation over his spouse affirm the other premise about death and funeral rites in his consideration. He contends that they should not be embedded in the rigid nature of the community. As it is expected, the society gave a lot of attention to the lifeless person to the extent of forgetting the living ones. For this reason, the inflexibility of the solemn acts appears disadvantageous to the mourners because they interfere with their regular programs. The community dictated the nature of funeral customs and the cultural practices with emphasis on the number of days to observe during the period. Family members who found the practices unsuitable to them had a little room to deviate lest they become perpetrators of the community’s disintegration. He asserts that some cultural practices, like expensive mourning sessions, create a disturbance in the normal way of life. The affected parties would find it difficult to cope with the demise, not because of losing a loved one, but of the extensive alienation with their daily chores (“Chuang-Tzu” 24). An analysis of the communal requirement gives his argument a better edge over the community’s demands.
As part of his attitude and education about death, Zhuangzi goes against a collection of rituals that oppose death as part of human life. Some practices, such mourning for long duration, were depictions that people did not want the loss to come back to another individual. He sees such tendencies as questioning the power that renders people lifeless. He makes out the action as an ill-perceived thought because the power of death is beyond human understanding, and no effort can stop it. The fact of the quick recovery of the society towards sorrowful participated in the complication of the healing process. He insists on accepting the nature of events even when grief-stricken. Moreover, it is easier to regain the normal state of mind when one accepts that an irreversible transformation has taken place. The attitude would result in short-term grieving because nothing is reversible (“Chuang-Tzu” 24). However, Zhuangzi is not against people mourning their loved ones, as a final show of respect and honor is necessary, especially, for family members and close friends. His point is that the process should not disrupt the normal way of life to the extent of inability to cope with it once again.
In an attempt to reinstate individuals to their previous states with ease, Zhuangzi deems that the ceremonial praxis should be in harmony with nature. As mentioned earlier, he considers death a part of an individual’s life. The practices that accompany it should, therefore, be in euphony with its position in the community by promoting the only necessary methods that does not include the extremely outlying behaviors. Such tendencies foresee an enforced number of mourning days that incurred extra costs to foot the expenses during the interlude. The decision lies in the authority of the shapers of public opinion, since their rules are the subject to collective fulfillment. The scholar opts for the protocol that enables people to cope with the loss and appreciate the value of life (“Chuang-Tzu” 25).
His hypothesis might appear to curtail the extent that people should express their feelings towards their departed loved ones and friends. However, it would be prejudicial to make the conclusion immaturely before getting the insight into his feelings and attitude towards sorrow. According to him, grief is a natural process that evokes different responses in human beings, and they have varied expressions regarding it. Prolonged grief, according to Zhuangzi, is a show of weakness and inappropriate mystery of one’s feelings. Over excessive grieving is not only injurious to the emotions of an individual but also to the ability to catch up with events in life after the period is over. An approach geared concerning the creating a positive attitude towards death should guide the community during the inception of lamenting procedures (“Chuang-Tzu” 25).
The society should, therefore, give people a chance to mourn their loved ones without enforcing rigid and elongated sessions. Its work should not stop at laying down the procedures but it should also give provisions for beneficial grieving. He perceives structured lamentations as sources of fake conformities just for individuals to appear loyal in the public. Additionally, he breaks free from such shared practices and mourns his wife in his preferred way. However, to maintain a cohesive social fabric that joins people together, there is a need for a collaboratively acceptable procedure based on strengthening the mastery of community members to deal with grief and loss (“Chuang-Tzu” 26).
Zhuangzi’s treatment of death and rituals, associated with, represents the social transformation as an integral part of the human life. It is an important and excruciating stage in human existence process. His feelings receive an inclination to a better grieving procedure than the one inherited from assorted proposals of Confucian teachings such as long interval of lamenting the passage of a loved one. He argues that the process should be rather elaborated, and it should reflect the community’s prowess in inculcating emotional intelligence of its members. Besides, it should not be a burden to the living, in any way, towards their efforts to meet the demands of the community. Instead, it should aim to restore the emotional equilibrium of the brokenhearted (“Chuang-Tzu” 28).
Zhuangzi’s feelings towards death and funeral rites relate with Mengzi’s attitude in several ways. Their approach is more of the neo-Confucian perceptions of the community with emphasis on an unembellished funeral practices and rituals. Mengzi’s definition of a communally acceptable mourning process is that of spares than that of wastes resources. He opposed the Chinese way of prolonging the mourning process that dug into the resources of the family members, leaving them at a more disenfranchised condition than they were before the death of a relative. He felt that the indulgence in grieving for a loved should save in a big way on the resource left behind by the departed person, than rendering them usable to an extent of being depleted by the community members. The undesirable mode of lamenting only left the bereaved family vulnerable to forces of nature that required settlement through resources. His notion is in agreement with Zhuangzi’s ideology that lengthy mourning is unnecessary especially when it is enforced by the society. Under those circumstances, a communally devised process that does not deteriorate the condition of members needs to get instituted (“Mengzi” 22).
Mengzi also advocated a more sorrowful interpretation, as opposed to fastidious session of grieving. According to him, affliction is a channel of expressing emotions that reflect a person’s feelings towards the dead. The mode of lamenting inaugurated by the community should not define to the letter how people should carry themselves during mourning. However, it should only give an outline of the societal accepted procedure without unnecessary impositions of fasting to honor the dead. Such a situation would only result in insincere expression of interest and lack of freedom to exhibit one’s feeling in their preferred way (“Mengzi” 22).
Thepremisepartlyconcurs with Zhuangzi’s attitudefavoring personally-defined extent of mourning with reference to theattachment that onehad with thedepartedindividual. On a diverging note, Mengzi callsforexcessivesorrow as for thebestway to mourn. According to Zhuangzi, this is a kind of show of weakemotionalcontrolandinability of communitymembers to be masters of their feelings. Excessivemourning,according to him, cannot bringthelifelessbodyback to life. Sessions like these imply the message that people are driven by conformity than by sincerity when they show their sorrow. Itonlyacts as a factor to propagatethesusceptibility of mourners to a slow healing processbearing in mindthat their dailychoresgetstalled.
The views of the two philosophers accommodate the feeling of Mozi, who describes excessive morning as a waste of resources. His ideas are contrast with Confucian philosophy about mourning, and he is the most extreme of the three philosophers. According to him, the society is misguided by drawing a process of mourning that drained people’s resources leading to a situation of double suffering. The rituals associated with grieving are only acceptable if they do not disrupt the normal functioning of the victims. Mozi holds that an elaborate grieving session allows the sorrowful to forget easily about the ordeal. His hunch coincides with the two previous philosophers. However, his stand is stauncher than Zhuangzi’s towards allowing those who wish to continue with mourning at their discretion. He strongly feels that it is not important to do so, since it will lead to unnecessary wastage of resources (“Mengzi” 23).
The various logically concluded attitudes towards death and funeral rites illustrate how a transformed society should appear. Zhuangzi’s reflections turn to be more favorable because they encourage the freedom of individuals in setting their mourning procedures. In addition, they recognize the importance of the community in giving a mourning outline. The function of the societal rules and directions is to strengthen the cord that binds people together (“Chuang-Tzu” 26). His version of grieving encouragesthemastery of emotionsrather than treatweakness as a way of honoringthedead. Theemphasis of death as a constitutive element of humanlifeleads to accepting our inability to changethesituationwhenitstrikes. Forthisreason, itappears uncalled for to have a prolongedritual of lamenting that unnecessarilyconsumesresource. Furthermore, funeral rituals should not inconvenience mourners, but fortify their knack to control emotions and subsist with the new condition.
In conclusion, the community shapers its opinion from ancient times and defines the process of mourning the dead. The influence of the three philosophers helps to cultivate a grieving procedure that makes the bereaved feel strong to face life without their loved ones. Their sentiments concur in many ways despite a few dissimilarities. However, their contrast is not based on their ideology, but on the scope to which mourning should extend. Zhuangzi’s ideas stand above the rest because of their comprehensive nature of taking into account the importance of an individual as well as that of the larger faction.
The general the attitude of the three scholars is that mourning should not be excessive or unnecessarily expensive. The rituals surrounding it should not stall the life of the affected people, and they should not put a yoke of uncalled for expenses around their necks. It should allow them to return to their chores immediately. In achieving this, both the society and individuals must play their roles in promoting the mastery and controlling the feelings.
Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters. Trans. A. C. Graham. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Pompany, 2001. Print
Mengzi: With selections from traditional commentaries. Trans. Bryan Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008. Print.