To follow the collective effort towards immense populations living in harmony, one models one's self on the expectations, and thus obligations, of one's society, parents, teachers, etc.. This was considered "considerate," towards social harmony, your parents, and the emperors. To always do as they expect you to do was the basis of moral considerations towards others, from which all other moral actions would follow. Following the rules, as such, was revered as "benevolence, and humanity."
It is interesting to note that, in the Chuang Tzu, this was not the way of the True Man of Dao.
from section 31, The Old Fisherman (trans. Watson)
Tzu-lu was still framing his reply when Tzu-kung answered, "This man of the K'ung family [Confucius] in his inborn nature adheres to loyalty and good faith, in his person practices benevolence and righteousness; [note that these are distinguished. The most important thing in his heart is loyalty, and thus benevolence is his action] he brings a beautiful order to rites and music and selects what is proper in human relationships. Above, he pays allegiance to the sovereign of the age; below, he transforms the ordinary people through education, and in this way brings profit to the world. Such is the occupation of this man of the Kung family!"
The stranger then laughed and turned to go, saying as he walked away, "As far as benevolence goes, he is benevolent all right. But I'm afraid he will not escape unharmed. To weary the mind and wear out the body, putting the Truth in peril like this - alas, I'm afraid he is separated from the Great Way by a vast distance indeed!"
Confucius looked shamefaced and said, "Please, may I ask what you mean by `the Truth'?"
The stranger said, "By `the Truth' I mean purity and sincerity in their highest degree. He who lacks purity and sincerity cannot move others. Therefore he who forces himself to lament, though he may sound sad, will awaken no grief. He who forces himself to be angry, though he may sound fierce, will arouse no awe. And he who forces himself to be affectionate, though he may smile, will create no air of harmony. True sadness need make no sound to awaken grief; true anger need not show itself to arouse awe; true affection need not smile to create harmony. When a man has the Truth within himself, his spirit may move among external things. That is why the Truth is to be prized!
"It may be applied to human relationships in the following ways. In the service of parents, it is love and filial piety; in the service of the ruler, it is loyalty and integrity; in festive wine drinking, it is merriment and joy; in periods of mourning, it is sadness and grief. In loyalty and integrity, service is the important thing; in festive drinking, merriment is the important thing; in periods of mourning, grief is the important thing; in the service of parents, their comfort is the important thing. In seeking to perform the finest kind of service, one does not always try to go about it in the same way. In assuring comfort in the serving of one's parents, one does not question the means to be employed. In seeking the merriment that comes with festive drinking, one does not fuss over what cups and dishes are to be selected. In expressing the grief that is appropriate to periods of mourning, one does not quibble over the exact ritual to be followed.
"Rites are something created by the vulgar men of the world; the Truth is that which is received from Heaven. By nature it is the way it is and cannot be changed. Therefore the sage patterns himself on Heaven, prizes the Truth, and does not allow himself to be cramped by the vulgar. The stupid man does the opposite of this. He is unable to pattern himself on Heaven and instead frets over human concerns. He does not know enough to prize the Truth but instead, plodding along with the crowd, he allows himself to be changed by vulgar ways, and so is never content. Alas, that you fell into the slough of human hypocrisy at such an early age, and have been so late in hearing of the Great Way!"
The Fisherman goes on to say that Confucius cannot follow him because he is not yet "True."
Confucius then almost comically goes on to prove this by admonishing his followers for not following the rules of "benevolence," not doing those things which are accepted as "the proper things to do."
"Confucius leaned forward on the crossbar, sighed, and said, "You certainly are hard to change! All this time you have been immersed in the study of ritual principles and you still haven't gotten rid of your mean and servile ways of thinking. Come closer and I will explain to you. To meet an elder and fail to treat him with respect is a breach of etiquette. To see a worthy man and fail to honor him is to lack benevolence. If the fisherman were not a Perfect Man, he would not be able to make other men humble themselves before him. And if men, in humbling themselves before him, lack purity of intention, then they will never attain the Truth. As a result, they will go on forever bringing injury upon themselves. Alas! There is no greater misfortune than for a man to lack benevolence. And yet you alone dare to invite such misfortune!"
What seems obvious to me here, is that Confucius was shunned by the True Man because his dedication to benevolence made him insincere or not whole. His inner Truth was not the guide of his outer actions. He couldn't be honest with the True Man because his adherence to conformity, "benevolence," was always the important thing for him. Thus, the simple, honest, True Man couldn't be bothered.
Note that 仁ren depicts 3 people, and gets its meaning in suggesting the way that people interact with one another, ideally in a humane and benevolent way. But what this meant, especially during the times of Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, and Confucius, in terms of comportment of behaviour, was to "conform" to the expectations of parents, leaders, teachers, older siblings, etc.. If you did not do this, you would be considered someone with no regard for others, thus "inhumane."
To make this sacrifice, of conforming to the expectations of your parents and the "greater good of society," ie., the success of the emperor, that was "benevolence" - the obligations of all people towards their elders and emperor.
This sort of behaviour towards authority was admonished in this chapter as well:
"Moreover, there are eight faults that men may possess, and four evils that beset their undertakings - you must not fail to examine these carefully. To do what it is not your business to do is called officiousness. To rush forward when no one has nodded in your direction is called obsequiousness. To echo a man's opinions and try to draw him out in speech is called sycophancy. To speak without regard for what is right or wrong is called flattery[...]"
I think this chapter, especially, shows the Daoist's consideration of benevolence and how they understood it, and thus, how the reference to it in chapter five of the Dao De Jing was meant to be understood.
Edited by Harmonious Emptiness, 02 November 2014 - 12:58 PM.