The Views of Mencius and Hsun-tzu on Heaven.
Mencius believes that it is our nature and mind that determine what we are. It is our fate that governs our fortunes and determines our lease on life. Fate was originally a patent to a fief-holder, given by the Son of Heaven as Heaven’s deputy to a feudatory. In extended usage it became our lot in life – the fate ordained by heaven. While people guard their minds and determine their conduct, they cannot determine their fate, which is in Heaven’s hands. So, Mencius believed that though all humans are innately good, the realization of that good comes with self-cultivation and self-knowledge.
Hsun-tzu could not accept Mencius idealistic view of human nature, nor did he believe that Heaven was the sole arbiter of human behavior. He believed that the importance of humankind in the universe is equal to but different from the importance of Heaven and Earth: “Heaven has its seasons, Earth has its riches and man has his culture. This is what is meant by the Trinity.” Humanity’s function is to utilize the resources of Heaven and Earth to create its own culture. This can be done through the strength acquired from social organization. However, because the social organization needs to be regulated, lest it break down, and because “desires are many, but things are few”, Hsun-tzu taught that people need to be restricted and guided by rules and morality.
In my view of these two philosophers, I feel that Mencius’ views are much more common in most religious traditions today. Mencius beliefs are a lot like Christianity, which is the religion that I am most familiar with. He believes that Heaven is a moral force whose mandate is to be respected and followed by human beings. We follow Heaven’s mandate by knowing and nourishing our human nature. Our human nature is good. When you look at the Doctrine of four beginnings, Jen, Yi, Li, and Chih, when these are fully developed, you have a very wise and harmonious person. If you have nature you have Heaven. If no nature, no Heaven. This is self-cultivation. In my religious tradition if you do the will of God, you will receive eternal life (Heaven).