Phúc Ðức: Do something good and your children will benefit from it

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  • Từ: 18.06.2008
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Phúc Ðức: Do something good and your children will benefit from it 08.07.2008 06:21:07 (permalink)
Phúc Ðức: Do something good
and your children will benefit from it

 Phạm Văn Bản

I am pretty impressed with my grandfather, who was an official and a scholar during the Nguyen dynasty. My mother told me, "You are alike as your grandfather in stature, nature, and attitude." She emphasized the important of his attitude as, "Win no proud but lose no dispirited, and you must behave well in defeat as well as in victory. Don't be as your father who is a chess addict." And recently, my wife responded, "After thirty years of marriage, I don't see anything wrong. Thank you, Grandpa!"

I was born in a village of the Pham, where is located on the bank of Red River and cuddled by Tan Mountain in Vietnam. My grandfather named me in his Sinology -- given name, "Ban" that combines with his name "Duoc" and my father name "Moc" to become "Duc"  which would guide me in an especially human life.

According to my grandfather, a life of a leadership should strive to promote "Phuc Duc", a term which has no direct equivalent English but a dictionary describes as, "Do something good and your children will benefit from it." The individual effort and achievement are important key points for the collectivity of the family. The family in a sense has its collective karma or fate, which become more favorable and prosperous if each generation of leaders makes the proper efforts to achieve virtue, usually by self-sacrifice and denial.

Authority must be nurturing, and if misfortunes arise for the family. It is assumed that somewhere a long the line a father has failed to do the right thing - my father is a typical example in this case. It is also assumed, however, that if the head of the family, such as my grandfather, promotes Phuc "Duc" the rest of the family will  benefit and accumulate more "phuc duc" on their own behalf. In my grandfather's peculiar way the concept of "phuc duc" resembles the idea of Mandate of Heaven, which brought down to the family level but enriched by Buddhist overtones of accumulating merit for a collective fate.

My villagers, for example, also hold a distinctive concept of legitimacy called uy tin, which means Charisma prestige. The emphasis is upon reliability, dependability, and a degree of moral responsibility. The essence of uy tin, again according to my grandfather, is a combination of three concepts.

The first is "tai" (ability) which emphasizes practical skills. Legitimacy calls for a degree of effectiveness, which is not a part of Confucian thinking on authority. Yet it is not entirely pragmatic, because the goal of authority should be to advance "duc", or "virtue", which has a Buddhist rather than a Confucian dimension.

The second aspect of uy tin is "duc" itself, the concept of " righteousness ", which has to be understood as self-sacrifice and the "destruction of the ego" ,which is also abasic  of Buddhist notion of gaining merit through the elimination of desires. People are expected to strive to gain more "duc" in life to have better afterlife. One of most effective ways of accumulating "duc" is to help others to get it. Leaders, above all, are expected to forego material advantages and strive to increase their "duc." My grandfather noted, "The Vietnamese concept of virtue that is basic to legitimacy has Confucian overtones in that it stresses the values of propriety and filial piety, but it also has a logic that goes beyond social ethics and incorporates divine forces In fact, the idea of "duc" as a part of legitimacy is a blending of divine and status-based concepts of authority."

The third element in "uy tin", which is "so" (fate), makes this connection to supernatural forces even clearer. The ingredient of  fatesays that legitimate authority depends upon forces that lie beyond the command of any political actor, and therefore leaders themselves are victims of fate. Fate can be either kind or harsh to them, depending upon their manifestation of "phuc duc" and the degree to which they have acted for the benefits of the People. That happen lies beyond explanation, and no one can ever master of his fate. Thus a leader can be seen as losing legitimacy, because things simply have gone wrong for him.

My grandfather taught me: "Historically, the rule of government in Vietnam was, 'the reach of the emperor's authority stops at the bamboo hedge,' (King’s power yields to village’s regulation)  where village leadership took over. The French penetration of Vietnamese’s society was limited; therefore, the communists’ will be limited... You must understand my thoughts to save and help your peoples."
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