The idea of Tien Ren He Yi in Chinese sycrectic religion

The Chinese syncretic religion put a very much emphasis on the concept of harmony which is known as ‘he’. Harmony for them is by following the moral order i.e. knowing how to relate yourself with the people around you and also your own surrounding. The idea of Tien Ren He Yi then will be explaining how such relationship exists through the concept of moral order.

In Chinese syncretic religion, the idea of Tien Ren He Yi (Unity of man and heaven) is exemplifies through its structures which consists of four elements. They are:
1-Tien (Heaven)
2-Tien Ming (Command of Heaven)
3-Tien Tzu (Son of Heaven)
4-Tien Hsia (All under heaven)

With regard to the first one i.e. Tien, it is referring to the Heaven. ‘Heaven’ here is not as understood by popular belief; rather it means the nature and the people around you. That is called heaven. Secondly is Tien Ming. It is basically referring to the command/ mandate of the heaven which can be understood as moral order. In a simple manner, it means to behave accordingly to all those people around you and know how to relate yourself with them by using your conscience (Hsin). Thirdly is with regard to Tien Tzu. Tien Tzu or the son of heaven implies the king that rule the country. Lastly is Tien Hsia i.e. all under heaven. To be exact, it means the citizens of the country themselves. With regard Tien Tzu and Tien Hsia, they are both referring to the human beings where superior-inferior relationship exists between them. Meaning, as the so called ‘protector’, the king would be providing the necessities needed by the citizens (Tien Hsia). In return, the citizens have to show loyalty to the king by not committing crime, treason etc. In fact, there exist superior-inferior relations as in the case of: leaders-subjects, husband-wife, parents-children, elder siblings-younger siblings etc. Simple example would be if you look at how seating arrangement during meal time is fixed, the seat of the father, the mother, the elder siblings and the younger ones-all are fixed in one sense.

The concept of Tien ren He Yi is further elaborated with the concept of ancestral worship. In a simple language, the concept of the unity of heaven and men will exist even if somebody is dead. Hence, if one party is still alive while the other is already died, there still exists a relationship between them. To be exact, a relationship which is based on moral order and the superior inferior relationship.

In Chinese syncretic religion, those who are superior are regarded as having a good moral order. In fact, their moral order is seen to be an ideal model. As such, they are not only revered, but also worshipped by people. By worshipping the dead one who is claimed to be having a ‘superior’ status, the people are actually hoping that they could get a moral guidance by doing that particular act. Usually, those who are being worshipped might be parents, teachers, warriors, and others who hold the statues of superior.

Basically, their relationship exist by the fact that they are following the moral order of how to relate yourself with people around you even if they are dead already. In fact, a harmonious state of relationship exists between the dead one and the living one because they have connected themselves with Tien i.e. ‘heaven’. Because of that, a harmonious relation exists between the dead one and the living one and thus it basically shows how their ‘heaven’ look like.
What Islam has to say about this?
As an ordinary Muslim, I personally think that the concept of moral order in Chinese syncretic religion is very much similar to the teachings of Islam. To be exact, know how to relate yourself accordingly towards your surrounding and also the people around you. In Islam, there is no such concept of individualism. To be a true Muslim, one has to know how to relate himself with all those people around him disregarding any difference that they might have- be it skin colour, faith, social statuses and others. It is so much true to the extent that if one sleeps with a full stomach while his neighbour sleeps in a state of starving; He is surely not a true Muslim. In fact, there is a hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) that says:

On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) -the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
"None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself."-It was related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Beautiful isn’t it?. Not only that, a Muslim is also expected to know how to relate with the nature around him. With the animals, the trees, the rivers, the seas, the mountains and all that which had been created by God. In fact, God has entrusted men to take care of all of those natural elements accordingly and not to destroy them. That is why man in Islam is looked as a ‘khalifah’ or Trustee in this world. The ‘harmony’ takes place once there is no such compartmentalization or segregation between God and the human being, reason and revelation and lastly between the physical aspect of life and the spiritual one. I guess, that’s how Islam looks at the concept of moral order and harmony in brief.

With regard to the concept of superior-inferior relations, again Islam would not allow such distinction to take place. Meaning, there is no class distinction or division in Islam with regard to those who are superior and those who are more superior. Of course, the sense of respect is there, particularly to the elders and those who are more knowledgeable. However, to understand the concept as the term per se and to reflect the idea of superior and less superior being would definitely not inherent in Islam. In Islam, everybody is the same in the eyes of God. No matter how rich you are, no matter how destitute you are, you are praying to same God, to the same direction. In fact, in Islam, we do not pray or worship the God’s creations (be it men or anything), rather we are praying to the Creator Himself. The Creator of the whole universe, The One Who created the earth and the heavens.

What about the concept of ancestral worship?
In Islam, of course respect to the dead is very much inherent. Meaning, if the dead one was a person with high morality and contributed a lot to the society during his lifetime, surely he/she is someone to be emulated in our lives. In fact, even if the dead one was not a good person, still there is something that we can learn from him/her. For instance, by looking at their past mistakes or wrongdoings surely it can be some sort of a reminder for us not to do the same things in the future. The issue here is when the dead person is even worshipped by the living one. Islam of course does not tolerate that. To worship the creations and not the Creator itself is not part of the teachings of Islam. What more when worshipping the dead for the sake moral guidance. For Muslims, the moral guidance is to be sought from God alone which is free from any intermediary. We ask directly to God and He would answer them according to His will. In fact, The Moment we ask, He would be saying ‘Here I am’.

Allahu’Alam(Allah Knows Best).
InsyaAllah, Correct me if I’m wrong =)


a.j. said...

WOW! where did you learn this akhi? thank you Allah for making this clear and simple for us ... and not to have any intermediary between us .. =)

TheHumbleWayfarer said...

Ayub,thanks to my lecturer.dR.Yamin Cheng.He's reeeeealaaly good.its a pleasure for me to share =)
insyaAllah, once i pursue my master, this area would b one of my sory akh..cannot updte my blog or even drop by your connection at home la =(