di zi gui sheng ren xun
young students, young childrenrules or standards
those of superior character,
here referring to Confuciusteachings or instructions
The rules for being a student are instructions given by sages.
This set of rules for young people was compiled from the instructions given by the ancient sages. What is meant by rules (gui ju)? Gui is a compass used for drawing circles, ju is a ruler used for drawing lines. Without the tools of a compass and a ruler, it is not possible to draw a straight line or a perfectly round circle. Therefore, anything that can serve as a basis or a standard can be called a rule (gui ju). What is this set of rules based upon? It is based upon the teachings of the ancient Chinese sage, Confucius. Book One Xue Er of the Confucian Analects says:
The Master said, “A youth, when at home, should be filial, and abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should be loving towards all, and draw near to those who are humane. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in the study of the six arts .”
This quote will be explained later on. A sage (sheng ren) not only has great learning, but he also has a lofty character. If a person is intelligent and learned but lacks virtue, then his intelligence and learning become tools for committing evil; he would be like a tiger with wings. A tiger is already fearsome to begin with, but if it has wings and is able to fly, then it will be able to fly freely and do whatever it wants. Therefore, being virtuous is far more important than having great scholarship and skills. That is why, in the introductory chapter, it is necessary to place virtue and morality before scholarship and skills. When sages teach and transform people, they also hope that each person can become a sage and a virtuous person.
There is a saying in Buddhism: “All living beings have the Buddha-nature and can become Buddhas.” There is another saying in Chinese: “All men can become like Yao and Shun.” The Buddha was a person of great wisdom who realized Buddhahood. This great wisdom is inherent in all living beings, but we don’t realize this because we are covered by ignorance. If we can put the Buddha’s teachings of wisdom into practice now, we will develop our inherent wisdom, and when that wisdom becomes the same as the Buddha’s wisdom, we will have realized Buddhahood. Yao and Shun were two famous sage-kings in ancient China who were known for being humane, kind, and filial. If we could learn from them and follow their standards, we can also become as virtuous as they were–and won’t that make us sages as well? And so Confucius handed down the standards of virtue, giving us the chance to learn from them.
Who was Confucius? He was a sage whom everyone in China knows; he was also the greatest educator. Since he was born in a poor family and his father died when he was very young, he always helped his mother with the chores and learned various skills in the process. Moreover, Confucius pursued knowledge with great diligence. Whether it was practical knowledge from daily life or knowledge found in books, he would actively study and seek to practice what he learned. In this way he developed his extraordinary character and attained the wealth of knowledge and skills that enabled him to accomplish and be familiar with just about everything.
Confucius was not only concerned with self-cultivation, he also wished to help others cultivate their character. That was why he accepted a great many students based on the principle that “in education there should be no distinctions of class.” He never indulged in the slightest discrimination based on the backgrounds, intelligence, or abilities of his students. Anyone who wished to study with him, as long as he prepared a token gift for the teacher according lo etiquette, would be accepted.
He taught students according to their dispositions. Based on the sharpness of their faculties and the measure of their minds, as well as on their various backgrounds and situations, he would give them individualized teachings that were easy to understand but contained deep meaning. He taught without weariness. Confucius never felt tired, never became impatient, and never thought about taking a rest. Therefore, many of his students became capable and productive people, and the Confucian school of thought has been handed down through the generations, becoming the mainstream of Chinese civilization. Later generations have honored Confucius as “the greatest sage and teacher,” meaning that he was the greatest and most virtuous teacher of the past.
Now we have the chance to study The Rules for Being a Student and to absorb his educational ideals–this is equivalent to being students of Confucius. Therefore, we should cherish this opportunity to learn from him how to become a sage. First of all, we should learn how to develop our virtue and how to enrich our knowledge and skills. That is why the first chapter is called “Revealing the Principle and Explaining the Meaning”; it brings out the principle that we need to emphasize and explains the reason why we need to understand it.
首 孝 悌 ， 次 謹 信
shou xiao ti
ci jin xin
首先 孝順父母 友愛兄弟姊妹
其次 謹慎 信實
first to be filial to one’s parents fraternity; to love one’s brothers and sisters
next to be cautious to be trustworthy
Of all rules, the first is respect, for your parents and all of your elders, learn to be careful and trustworthy.
首先要孝順父母、尊敬兄長，其次要言行謹慎而有信用。在《論語》中說的是 「入則孝，出則弟」，這個 「入」是說在家裡，「出」是指出門在外。「弟」呢，是 「悌」的古字。本來講的是做人家的弟弟，要友愛、恭敬哥哥；引申出來，就是要尊敬長輩。父母生養我們是十分辛勞的，中國的《詩經》裡就有一首詩歌說﹕
First of all, we should be filial to our parents and respectful to our brothers, sisters, and elders; secondly, we should be cautious in our speech and behavior and be trustworthy. In the Confucian Analects it says: “At home one should be filial, and abroad, respectful to one’s elders.” The character ru 入”enter” means at home, chu 出 “go out” means going out, away from home. The character ti 弟”fraternity” was used in ancient times for the modern character ti 悌. Originally, it referred to the affection and respect that a younger brother should have for his older brother; the meaning is extended to include being respectful to elders. Our parents suffer great hardship in bearing us and bringing us up. A poem in the Book of Odes of China says﹕
My father gave me life; my mother nourished me, soothed me, raised me, helped me grow up, taught me, took care of me, looked after me constantly, and took me in her arms wherever she went. I wish to repay their kindness but it is as high as the heavens.
Our fathers gave us life, and our mothers nourished us and brought us up. The word for “to nourish” has the meaning of bending over and picking up with both hands, like when our parents hold us in their arms, fearing that we will freeze in the cold or melt in the heat. They protect and cherish us as their dearest treasures, and soothe us with gentle caresses. When a baby cries, his mother gently pats him on back and coaxes him into a good mood. When he’s cranky, his mother tenderly strokes his head and pities him. How our parents love us and do their best to take care of us! They raise us by feeding and rearing us.
Every mother goes through unbelievable suffering in feeding her baby, yet when she sees that baby is nourished, she forgets all about the suffering! After undergoing much hardship to bring up their child, the parents must still educate him in the principles of being a person and handling matters in the world. “Took care of me, looked after me constantly” describe how tenderly parents care for and protect their children without ever becoming weary or lax. The mother takes her child in her arms wherever she goes, not minding the inconvenience. Ah！ That is how parents bring up their children!
The energy and kindness that our parents have devoted to us is as boundless as empty space. When could we ever finish repaying it? We could never finish, but we must still try our best. Thus the verse says that of all rules, Filial piety is the first (literally “head”), which means the most important, just as the head is the most important part of the body. Fraternity is an extension of filial piety. Our parents gave birth to us, and so we are related to our parents as the ten fingers are related to the hands. Although some fingers are long and others are short, just as some children are good and others are not, they cannot separate from or abandon each another. Thus, only by loving and caring for our brothers and sisters can we set our parents’ hearts at ease.
而長輩呢，有的是長養我們的法身慧命的老師 ，有的是父母的親友，所以我們恭敬師長，就等於恭敬父母一樣。不但自身可以受到教益而成就，以榮顯父母，更不致讓人以為我們的父母不懂教養子女而遺羞父母 。所以這兩種美德都是最基本，最要緊的。
Our elders include our teachers, who nurture our Dharma-body and wisdom-life, as well as our relatives. Respecting our teachers and elders is equivalent to respecting our own parents. By doing so, not only do we gain benefit ourselves and bring honor to our parents, we won’t disgrace our parents by giving others cause to say that our parents don’t know how to teach their children. Therefore, filial piety and fraternity are the most basic and important virtues.
After filial piety and fraternity, the next virtues we should have are cautiousness and trustworthiness. Even if a person is sufficiently filial to his parents and respectful to his elders, if he does things in a reckless manner and fails to be trustworthy, not only will things go wrong for him, but he will bring trouble and disaster upon himself. That would also be considered unfilial and disrespectful. Therefore, cautiousness and trustworthiness are the next virtues we should possess.
汎 愛 眾 ， 而 親 仁
fan ai zhong
er qin ren
普遍地 愛護 眾生
而且 親近 仁德的人
universally cherish living beings
and draw near humane and virtuous one
Be friendly and kind to all, draw near to people who are good.
Why should we cherish all living beings? Why not just look after ourselves? There is a saying: “Heaven has the virtue of cherishing life.” If we think only of our own well-being, but fail to consider the well-being of other people and other living beings,: then we are being selfish.
“The Way of Heaven is unselfish.” Nature allows the myriad things to. grow naturally; each has its right to survive. Even a small plant will struggle through the winter so that it can produce a resplendent flower in the spring: how could we mercilessly destroy it? The affinities that have brought us together here on this earth were developed through hundreds of thousands of eons. Isn’t it a pity that rather than cherishing these affinities, we always want to hurt and humiliate each other instead? All beings were born from and raised by their parents. Are we the only ones who get to receive our parents’ loving care and to show respect to our parents? Can we take away the right of other beings to do the same for their parents?
Therefore, it is not enough to respect our own parents and elders and to be careful and trustworthy in our own conduct. We must also be kind and friendly to other people and other beings. That is true humaneness. If we wish to refrain from all evil and practice all good, we should constantly draw near to good teachers and ask them to teach us how to conduct ourselves well and to get rid of our bad habits. In drawing near such teachers, we should not feel shy or embarrassed, nor should we fear difficulty. No matter how far we have to travel, we should still draw near to them, not just sit at home and wait for a good teacher to show up and teach us.
有 餘 力 ， 則 學 文
you yu li
ze xue wen
還有 多餘的 心力
那麼、就 學習 學識文章
have extra strength
then study learning
Whatever time you have left should be devoted to learning.
If we diligently carry out the things mentioned in the lines above and still have some time and energy left after that, then we should study more to expand our knowledge.
Why is this? As mentioned before, if we possess talent and knowledge but lack a foundation in virtue, then our talent will only serve to help us do evil. On the other hand, if we have virtue but lack skills and knowledge, then we will not be able to transmit our understanding or to help and teach others. We will be like a newborn baby who cannot even stand up, much less do anything else. Therefore, it is important to study. However, the cultivation of virtue should come even before studying. That’s why the line says “whatever time you have left.” After first concentrating on the cultivation of virtue, we should spend some time studying.
In Confucius’ time, the scope of learning included the Book of Odes, the Book of History, and the six arts. It comprised both academic knowledge, such as from the six classics the Book of Odes, the Book of History, the Book of Rites, the Book of Music, the Book of Change, and the Spring and Autumn Annals –as well as practical skills, such as the six arts–rites, music, archery, charioteering , writing, and arithmetic.
The Book of Odes is a compilation of songs and poems from the kings, scholars, officials, and common people of ancient China: they used songs to express their thoughts and feelings. The odes praised merit without flattering, remonstrated with negligent rulers without being overly harsh, and lamented fate without being excessive. If we study them, we can develop a gentle and honest nature.
The Book of History, which records the history of China in remote antiquity, can give us a more comprehensive understanding of the facts and principles and a more farsighted view. If we can understand the principles of music theory found in the Book of Music, it will expand our learning and make us more mellow and easy-going. The Book of Change, while used for divination purposes, is actually an exhaustive key to the changes of Nature through the four seasons. Thorough study of it will naturally give us a sense of awe for the universe, we will know when to retreat and guard our position, and when to forge ahead. The Book of Rite. sets forth in detail the various rules of etiquette for inter-acting with others and conducting ourselves in the world. If we learn these rules, we will gain the respect of others, have more self-esteem. and be more thrifty. By studying the Spring and Autumn Annals. in which Confucius praised and disparaged the attitude and conduct of kings and officials, we can learn the proper way to speak in a variety of situations.
The study of these six classics can refine our character in six different ways. The six arts are six practical disciplines. The study of rites and music instills in us a sense of dignity and harmony. Archery and charioteering are excellent forms of training that require the combined use of wit and physical strength. Writing, or calligraphy, tempers our aggressiveness and arrogance: arithmetic strengthens our mental agility. These were all subjects that students in ancient China were required to study. The elements of moral education, academic study, physical education, and social training are present in them. We can see that, compared to modern people, the ancients were not behind at all.
Just as today’s schools have their curriculum, here it says that in whatever time we have left after we have applied effort in cultivating virtue. We should devote ourselves to studying these subjects. In that way, we will have both inner cultivation and external knowledge and skills: we will have both elegance and substance.
Confucius had a well-known student named Zhong You, also called Zilu. As a person, Zilu was filial, brave, trustworthy, righteous, straightforward, and unpretentious. But he was also very reckless. Before he became Confucius’ student, he had always depended on his bravery and looked down on the intellectuals who knew only how to recite from books and who cultivated courteous manners and yielded to others. The first time he went to see Confucius, he marched in with an awesome martial spirit, a long pheasant feather stuck in his cap, along sword sheathed in bearskin hanging from his waist.
But Confucius’ relaxed, gentle, and courteous manner caught him off guard. They had an archery match, during which Confucius was also calm and relaxed. Confucius shot confidently and hit the bull’s eye every time. Zilu was embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He hurried back and changed into a scholar’s robes, and then he went to visit Confucius formally and to bow to Confucius as his teacher. However, while it is not easy to move mountains and rivers, it is even harder for a person to change his character. Zilu was not a student who was easy to teach and subdue.
He once asked his teacher, “An arrow made from the tail. straight bamboo growing on South Mountain will shoot straight and far. Likewise, if a man has a good character, that should be enough: what need is there to seek refinement in learning? Confucius used the same analogy to answer Zilu, saying, “If one adds a metal tip to that bamboo arrow and feathers to its shaft, won’t it shoot even farther and strike even deeper?” Hearing that answer, Zilu was inspired to concentrate on his studies, and he eventually became a very capable individual.
We have discussed the eight verses of the first chapter, which explains the principle and meaning of the text. The following chapters will individually explain the concepts of being filial, being respectful to elders, being careful, being trustworthy, being kind and friendly to all, drawing near to good people, and studying.
父 母 呼 ， 應 勿 緩
fu mu hu
ying wu huan
父親 母親 叫喚
回答 不要 遲緩
father mother calls
respond not slow
When father and mother are calling, answer them right away.
父 母 命 ， 行 勿 懶
fu mu ming
xing wu lan
父親 母親 命令
做 不要 遲緩
father mother order
Act, do not lazy
When they give you directions, obey them without hesitation.
父 母 教 ， 須 敬 聽
fu mu jiao
xu jing ting
父親 母親 教導
必須 恭敬地 聽從
father mother instruct
must respectfully listen
When your parents need to instruct you, respectfully do as you’re told.
父 母 責 ， 須 順 承
fu mu ze
xu shun cheng
父親 母親 責備
必須 溫馴地 接受
father mother scold
must compliantly accept
Whenever your parents must scold you, acknowledge your errors and faults.
1.When Mother and Father are calling, answer them right away.
When our parents are far away or in another room, they may call out to us when they need us. If we do not respond right away, they may think that we are not around or that we did not hear them, and they will keep calling until they become hoarse or lose their temper, neither of which would be good for their health. A truly Filial child would not want his parents to ruin their health like that. He would not pretend to be deaf or mute when his parents called him, and he would not dare to disobey them even if he is annoyed at being called.
2.When they give you directions, obey them without hesitation.
When our parents tell us to do something, whether sternly or gently. we should obey them right away and not look for excuses to procrastinate. We shouldn’t act obedient in front of our parents but then disobey them behind their backs; nor should we do things in a reluctant manner and keep complaining in front of our parents or behind their backs.
3.When your parents need to instruct you, respectfully do as you’re told.
Our parents are much more experienced than we are, and so when they instruct us on how to communicate with other people and how to handle various situations, we should listen respectfully to their words, make sure we understand them, and remember them by heart. We shouldn’t think our parents are too old-fashioned and simply let their words go in one ear and out the other. It is said, “All people are my teachers, and I am everyone’s teacher.” Whether other people are good or bad, we can always learn something from them; how much the more can we learn from our parents! We should listen to our parents if they are right, of course; and if they are unreasonable, we should still be respectful to them, but not follow their example.
4.Whenever your parents must scold you, acknowledge your errors and faults.
If we do something wrong or we let down our parents’ wishes, they may scold us severely or gently remonstrate with us. No matter how they react, we should compliantly accept their admonition, and not argue with them or make them angry or upset.
Why are these four sentences placed at the beginning of the discussion on filial piety? They deal with the most common situations that occur in our homes. We can easily tell from observing the daily interactions between parents and children whether the parents are loving and the children are filial. If the children claim to be filial and yet fail to practice these four basic rules in daily life, who will believe them? Unfortunately, we tend to neglect these small matters of daily life and think that they are no big deal. We don’t realize that if we gradually accumulate these bad habits, we may end up breaking our parents’ hearts. What’s the use of claiming to be filial if we don’t actually practice?
In ancient China, there was a man named Ding Lan who was a rough fellow. Although he and his mother had only each other to rely upon, he often scolded and beat his mother without any sense of shame for his unfilial conduct. One day when he was working in the fields, he suddenly noticed a fawn kneeling down to drink its mother’s milk. He also saw some young crows busily looking for food to feed their aging mother. Reflecting on the way he treated his own mother, he realized that he was not even as good as an animal. He made up his mind to be filial to his mother from then on.
But it just so happened that on that particular day, his mother was late in sending lunch to him, and she was afraid she would be scolded and beaten again. As she hurriedly walked toward her son, she saw Ding Lan running toward her. Terrified, she dropped the lunch box and turned and fled. When Ding Lan saw his mother running away, he shouted out and ran even faster, trying to tell her his intention. His mother cried as she ran, thinking, “If he catches me this time, he’ll beat me to death for sure! What misery! It’s meaningless to live in this world!” And so when she reached the riverbank, she threw herself in and committed suicide. When Ding Lan reached that place, he saw only a piece of wood floating on the river. Knowing that he would never see his mother again, he picked up the wood and took it home, where he treated it as his mother. He carved his mother’s name on it, set it on the altar, and made offerings to it. And thus the Chinese custom of setting up memorial plaques to their ancestors began.
Although Ding Lan deeply regretted his rebellious behavior, it was too late. So there is a saying, “The tree wants to be still, but the wind keeps on blowing: a child wishes to repay his parents’ kindness, but they are gone.” If we want to practice filial piety, we should start early by developing a respectful attitude toward our parents when we interact with them in daily life. That is the first step to being filial.
冬 則 溫 ， 夏 則 凊
dong ze wen
xia ze jing
冬天 就 使他溫暖
夏天 就 令他涼爽
winter then warm
summer then cool
On cold winter days, we should try to keep our parents warm.
And on hot summer days, we should try to make our parents feel cool.
晨 則 省 ， 昏 則 定
chen ze xing
hun ze ding
早上 就 探視
傍晚 就 安定（安頓寢具）
morning then greet
dusk then settle
In the morning, we should greet our parents.
At night, we should arrange the blankets and bedding for our parents.
出 必 告 ， 反 必 面
chu bi gao
fan bi mian
出外 一定 報告
回來 一定 面見
go out must tell
return must see, face
When we go out, we should tell our parents.
After coming home, we should see our parents again.
居 有 常 ， 業 無 變
ju you chang
ye wu bian
居住 要有 固定
工作 不要 更改
dwell have fixed
job, work don’t change
We should reside at a fixed place and not constantly change jobs.
Some ways in which we can make our parents warm in the winter are: giving them thick blankets to cover themselves with making hot tea for them to drink, and turning on the heater. We should do our best to keep our parents warm in the cold winter, so that they won’t freeze or catch cold. That way, not only their bodies, but their hearts will also be warm!
凊，也是個動詞，讀如 「靜」。這個字必須特別地注意，它的偏旁是兩點水，冰凍的意思，不是三點水的意思。這兩個點在古中國字是寫成 「」，像冰塊的裂痕，所以有冰凍的意思。凊就是叫人感覺涼爽，好像吃了冰似的。若寫成三點水的「清」，就不對了。清是乾淨，當然是用水來洗才乾淨的。
We should pay special attention to the word “cool” jing in Chinese. It has a radical with two drops of water, which means the water is frozen into ice. The ancient form of this radical was . resembling cracks on the surface of an ice cube, so it means chilly or icy. So the word “jing” means to make people feel as cool and refreshed as if they were eating ice. If we write three drops of water as its radical, it becomes the character “qing 清”which means clean, to make things clean with water.
In the summer we should make people feel as cool as if they were eating ice, but in the winter it would be too cold to eat ice. During the summer, we sweat under the blazing sun outside, and we feel hot and stuffy inside the house. Our aging parents may not be able to bear such heat. We can make our parents feel cool and comfortable by turning on the fan or the air conditioner, or opening the windows to let the air circulate, or serving them ice water or cold watermelon. With modern space age technology, it’s quite easy to keep our parents warm in the winter and cool in the summer. However, it wasn’t so easy in the old days. And precisely because it wasn’t easy, the virtue of filial piety could be revealed through doing it.
Here is an example from the Twenty-four Filial Sons of Chinese history. In the Han dynasty, there was a boy named Huang Xiang whose mother died when he was only nine years old. Yet he proved that he knew how to be filial and take care of his father at such a young age. On sweltering summer nights when their house was as hot as an oven, Huang Xiang would fan the bed before asking his father to sleep. On cold winter nights, the boy would warm the freezing blankets with his own body before asking his father to go to bed. To do such things even occasionally would not have been easy, yet at his young age Huang Xiang did them night after night so that his father could sleep comfortably. What an admirable child!
When we get up in the morning, we should go to see if our parents slept well, if there is something they need, or if they have any instructions for us. How can we make sure our parents get a good night’s rest? In the evening, we can bid them “good night” and pull down the bed covers for them so that they can sleep comfortably and well.
When we go out, we should let our parents know where we are going and when we will be back. We should never slip away without informing them. We can leave the phone number of the place we are going if there is one, and call our parents if we cannot come home on time. Once we get home, we should report to our parents immediately, and not just slip back to our own room without giving notice, for our parents might stay up and wait for us, worrying about our safety.
Nowadays, many people like to move from place to place and change jobs just for the sake of finding something new. However, we should know that frequent moving and changing of jobs tends to make our moods unstable and our lives insecure. It also causes our parents to worry about us. If our parents live with us and have to move as well, they may become afflicted, because the elderly don’t like to experience changes. Therefore, we should try to avoid moving and changing jobs too frequently. If we are forced by the circumstances to do so, we should inform our parents immediately so that they will not worry and will know where to find us in an emergency.
Once there was a Mrs. Brown who lived in an apartment in Los Angeles. Although her son was not a bad person, he had never had a stable residence or job. He moved several times each year. Sometimes he remembered to call his mother to inform her of his new address and phone number, but usually she only had two or three of his old addresses in her address book. Mrs. Brown always sighed sorrowfully whenever she spoke of her son. She always worried about whether he could support himself and wondered where he was living. One day Mrs. Brown died of a brain stroke. After several days of not seeing her, her neighbors suspected that something was wrong and broke into her house, where they found her body, already beginning to stink. After several days of searching, they finally reached her son, who had just lost his job and moved twice. What a sad plight!
事 雖 小 ， 勿 擅 為
shi sui xiao
wu shan wei
事情 雖然 細小
不要 任意地 做
matter although small
do not do as you do
No matter how small the affair, do not act just as you please.
苟 擅 為 ， 子 道 虧
gou shan wei
zi dao kui
如果 任意地 做
為人子女的 道理 損
if do as you do
a child the way take a loss
If you act just as you please, then you have not performed as a dutiful child should.
物 雖 小 ， 勿 私 藏
wu sui xiao
wu si cang
物品 雖然 微小
不要 私自地 收藏
thing although small
do not privately store things
Although a thing may be small, do not save it for yourself.
苟 私 藏 ， 親 心 傷
gou si cang
qin xin shang
如果 私自地 收藏
父母親 內心 受傷害
if privately store things
parents hearts be hurt
If you hoard things for yourself, your parents’ hearts will be grieved.
As children, we should not follow our own wishes and do as we please, without consulting our parents. Otherwise, we will not be fulfilling our filial duties. The first two lines emphasize that as children we should respect our parents.
No matter what we want to do, we should first ask our parents. We should act only after we have received their permission. We should not casually make decisions on our own, thinking we have already grown up. After we receive an education, we should not regard our parents as country bumpkins and be disrespectful to them. Nor should we think that there is no need to bring small matters to their attention and so only report major events to them. If we act in this way toward our parents, we have been remiss in our filial obligations. Filial piety is like a bright pearl. It is the most precious jewel in the world. We cherish jewels and protect them as carefully as our very lives, because we are afraid of damaging them. Yet we fail to protect our filial piety, the bright pearl within us; instead, we carelessly spoil it. Our priorities are truly confused!.
The previous section discussed how we should handle matters. The next two lines discuss receiving things. We shouldn’t casually take even a very small object, thinking our parents won’t know about it or won’t care. Such behavior would actually cause them a lot of grief. Anyone feels hurt when he is ignored, how much the more so our own parents.
Filial piety begins with respect. If we feed our parents but don’t respect them, how is this different from raising cats or dogs? We should show our respect by letting our parents know about everything we do. We shouldn’t think, “Oh, I don’t want to bother them with these small matters,” or “I’m just trying to be more independent.” Such thoughts would only undermine the precious virtue of filial piety and hurt our dear parents.
Confucius’ disciple Zeng Zi was renowned for his filial piety. When his father Zeng Dian (one of Confucius’ earliest disciples) was still alive, Zeng Zi would serve him his food and then respectfully ask him who should eat the leftovers, should there be any. While eating, his father would sometimes ask if there was any more food. Zeng Zi would always say “yes,” so his father could eat without worrying whether there was any food left.
Later, when Zeng Zi’s son Zeng Yuan served Zeng Zi, after Zeng Zi finished eating, Zeng Yuan would put away the food without asking about how to deal with the leftover food. When Zeng Zi asked his son if there was any food left over, his son would say “no.” Zeng Yuan did this because he wanted to save the food and serve it to his father at the next meal. Mencius’ judgment of the situation was that while Zeng Zi knew well how to serve his parents and comply with their wishes, Zeng Yuan only knew how to feed his parents. Think it over: Even in such a small matter –such a minor detail–Zeng Zi dared not do as he pleased; he dared not keep anything for himself. No wonder people praised Zeng Zi as the “greatly filial Zeng Shen” and Confucius had no second thoughts about teaching the “Classic of Filial Piety” to him.
親 所 好 ， 力 為 具
qin suo hao
li wei ju
父母親 的事物 喜好
盡力地 替 準備周全
parents that which like
do one’s best, use effort for have everything completely
Whatever your parents like, you should earnestly try to provide for them.
親 所 惡 ， 謹 為 去
qin suo wu
jin wei qu
父母親 的事物 厭惡
謹慎地 替 去除
parents that which dislike
carefully, attentively for get rid of
Whatever your parents dislike, you should carefully try to remove for them.
The first line says that whatever our parents are fond of and would like to have, we should go out of our way to provide it fully to them, no matter how much difficulty or trouble we have to go through. We should happily practice giving to our parents, in order to comfort them and make them happy. With this single sincere thought of filial piety, one will naturally grow in the virtues of kindness, patience, perseverance, and courage.
If you have ever gazed at the stars, you may have noticed a group of seven stars shaped like a big soup ladle–this is the Big Dipper in the Ursa Major constellation. Many touching stories and legends are associated with the well-known constellations in both Eastern and Western cultures. The following story, which many Westerners may know, is about a little girl who was very filial.
Once upon a time, a little girl lived with her mother in a small log cabin near the Black Forest. One summer night, her mother in other tossed and turned restlessly, unable to fall asleep. She felt very thirsty and wanted to drink a cup of cool water. The little girl, despite her sleepiness, immediately got out of bed, dressed, and took a ladle with a long handle to get water from the well. Pulling the bucket up out of the well, she found that there was not even a drop of water in it, for the well had run completely dry. “What should I do?” wondered the little girl. “There is a spring deep inside the forest, but it’s very far from here and I have to walk through the dark forest to get there.” But thinking of her mother longing for a cup of cool water, she bravely set out on the path into the forest, groping her way in the dark.
The owls booted eerily, and occasionally bats flew from the caves. The little girl became afraid and worried. But once again, thinking of her mother waiting for the water, she resolutely went forward. Finally, she heard the sound of flowing water. She took some water from the spring and quickly headed back. On the way, she met a thirsty dog and a weary old man. She kindly gave them some water.
Every time she gave, the long ladle in her hand changed. The ladle originally made of cast iron, first turned to silver, and then to shining gold, which illuminated the dark path and helped the girl find her way home. After the mother drank the water and lay down comfortably, the ladle turned into brilliant diamond and flew out the window to hang high up into the night sky, twinkling happily for everyone to see. Now when you see the seven stars of the Big Dipper, won’t it remind you of this filial, kind, and brave little girl?
How should we deal with people, things, and matters that our parents dislike? Basically, of course, we should get rid of them, but in doing so we must be very cautious not to frighten our parents or hurt anyone in the process, as that would go against virtue. For example, if we see a snake and rashly try to chase it away, we may make our parents afraid or even get bitten by the snake ourselves. And if our parents hate someone very much does that mean we should kill the person? We must be cautious; we must make wise judgments. If we want to quell people’s fear and hatred, bold courage alone is not enough. We must have great wisdom to guide us to act in the most suitable and correct manner. Only then will we be able to skillfully remove the things that our parents dislike.
In this world, the sufferings that birth entails (old age, sickness, not obtaining what we seek, being apart from those we love, being together with those we hate, constant change) and the fear of death are what people hate and loathe the most. Freedom from the sufferings of birth and death and realization of the eternal bliss of nonproduction and nondestruction are the greatest source of comfort and joy. Emotional love. wealth, and high position are neither real nor lasting; we did not bring them with us at birth, nor can we take them along when we die. Only if we practice diligently and end our own birth and death will we be able to save others. Otherwise, we’ll be like a clay Bodhisattva, who cannot even save himself as he crosses the river.
When we give joyfully to our parents, we are being filial. When we practice joyful giving to all people, that is called humaneness. If we extend it to all sentient beings, then it is known as kindness. If we give fearlessness to (relieve the fears of) our parents, we are being obedient. To relieve the fears of all people is righteousness. When we expand this to cover all living beings, it is compassion. Thus we can see that the principle of filial piety starts with being kind and respectful towards our dearest ones and then extending this behavior to other people and sentient and insentient beings. This is called the greatly compassionate stage of “loving our own parents in all people and beings.”
身 有 傷 ， 貽 親 憂
shen you shang
yi qin you
身體 如果有 毀傷
留給 父母親 憂慮
body have harm
give, hand down parents worry
If you carelessly injure your body, you bring worry and fret to your parents.
德 有 傷 ， 貽 親 羞
de you shang
yi qin xiu
品德 如果有 毀傷
留給 父母親 羞恥
virtue have harm
give to parents shame
If you heedlessly damage your virtue, you bring shame and disgrace to your parents.
Above, the text discussed how we should deal with matters that our parents like and dislike, respectively. This presents a great challenge and difficulty. In order to practice filial piety, we must have not only patience, courage, and determination, but also wisdom. Otherwise, in a moment of carelessness, we may put ourselves in danger or else get caught in an unreasonable or illegal situation. Then, even though our intent was to be filial, we end up being unfilial.
What do I mean by this? I am referring to a situation in which our parents like something very difficult to obtain, or else they dislike something which is very difficult to get rid of. In order to please them, we may risk our lives in all kinds of dangerous situations and even resort to criminal acts such as theft, robbery, arson, murder, or treason. On a small scale, we may endanger our own lives, on a larger scale, we may destroy our family and country. Not only will our parents be grieved and worried, but others will ridicule them for not teaching their child well and for lacking virtue. We will have brought upon them a disgrace that will last for tens of thousands of years! Confucius said, “Our parents’ only worry is that we may fall sick.” Our parents are concerned if our bodies, minds, or lives come to harm in any way Therefore, by taking care of ourselves, we are being. filial to our parents indirectly.
Confucius instructed Zeng Zi “Not daring to harm our bodies, hair, and skin, which our parents gave us, is the beginning of filial piety. Establishing ourselves, practicing the Way, and developing a good reputation so that our parents will be honored is the fulfillment of filial piety.” That is to say, staying healthy both physically and mentally so that our parents will not worry about us is only the first step of being filial. To practice Filial piety to perfection, we must develop a good character and bring benefit to the society and nation, thus shedding glory on our parents.
If this standard is too high, at the very least we must refrain from evil deeds and unkind actions, or else we will be a disgrace to our parents. The Holy Bible says, “Love is unselfish…it is to refrain from shameful deeds.” During the Spring and Autumn Period [722-481 B.C.] in China, Lord Xian of the State of Jin was infatuated with his concubine Li Ji, who wanted him to do away with his eldest son (and his heir) Shen Sheng and make her own son heir to the throne. Once when Shen Sheng sent an offering of meat to his father, Li ji secretly put poison in the meat and then accused the eldest son of trying to kill his father and usurp the throne. Lord Xian, without looking into the matter carefully, was so furious he wanted to kill his own son. Shen Sheng thought: “My father would not be happy without Li ji. If he wants me to die, how could I go against his wish?” Then, without defending himself against the unjust accusation, he committed suicide.
Now, you would think such a person, who killed himself in order to comply with his father’s wishes would be praised as a filial child in history, right? No. He only received the posthumous title of Prince Gong (respect), and Confucius’ judgment was that while he knew how to be obedient, he didn’t understand the real meaning of filial piety. He was unfilial not only because he injured his own body and took his own life, but he put his father in a situation of being seen as unrighteous. Others scolded his father for lacking wisdom and compassion; thus he was being truly unfilial.
Therefore, whether we are practicing joyful giving or the giving of fearlessness to our parents, we must have wisdom. We should base ourselves on the rule of not injuring our bodies or ruining our virtue. We should not be unfilial, but on the other hand we should not go overboard and be foolish in our filial piety. The Venerable Master often taught people, “As people we should love our country, love our family, and cherish our own bodies and lives.” These are the words of a sage who has profoundly understood and truly practiced the way of filial piety.
親 愛 我 ， 孝 何 難
qin ai wo
xiao he nan
父母親 疼愛 我
盡孝道 什麼 困難的
parents love me
to be filial what difficult
If parents are loving and kind, of course it’s not hard to be filial.
親 憎 我 ， 孝 方 賢
qin zeng wo
xiao fang xian
父母親 厭惡 我
盡孝道 才 賢孝的
parents hate me
to be filial then worthy
If parents are hateful and cruel, then it’s truly to be filial.
Chinese proverb says: “Propriety requires that we return the favor.” If someone wishes us well, we should return the courtesy. If others smile at us, we cannot frown back. This is very natural in human relationships, especially in the relationship between a kind father and a filial child. If our parents love us and take care of us, it’s only right for us to be filial to them; we certainly cannot consider ourselves extraordinary filial children for doing so.
However, if we are able to be filial, caring, and obedient to our parents when they fail to care for us and may even hate us, then we are truly exceptional and virtuous. Worldly affairs occur in the realm of dualities.
Ordinary people are always either “returning the gift of a peach with a plum” or “taking a tooth for a tooth.” “Returning the gift of a peach with a plum” comes from a story in the Book of Odes and represents mutual kindness between friends. “Taking a tooth for a tooth” refers to mutual revenge between enemies. Led by the law of dualities, we are forever entangled in the karmic web of kindness and enmity. Since time without beginning, we have gone through life after life, sometimes playing the role of friend, sometimes being the enemy. We are mortals subject to birth and death.
If we can smash through dualities and use a heart of total kindness and vows of constant compassion to respect and bring joy to others, to encompass, rescue, and help others, without grudges and regret, then we’ll transcend the world！ If we can view enemies and friends the same way, gradually getting rid of past karma and refraining from creating new karma, how can we remain in the turning wheel of birth and death? If we wish to seek Buddhahood and end birth and death, we first have to learn how to be a proper person. The first principle of being a proper person is to be filial. If we can fulfill our filial duty regardless of whether our parents are kind and loving, we will have taken the first step.
Since ancient times China has emphasized filial piety. “Of the hundred good deeds, filial piety is foremost.” “Among the ten thousand practices, filial piety is ranked first.” There are countless stories of filial children. One example was Min Ziqian. When his father discovered how cruel his stepmother had been to him and wanted to throw her out, Min Ziqian interceded on her behalf. And although Great Shun’s stepmother had deluded his father into plotting to kill him, after inheriting the throne from Emperor Yao Great Shun continued to serve his parents with great filial piety.
Although the terms “filial piety” and “cause and effect” are not well-known in Western culture, the concept of filial piety is not wholly unfamiliar, for it is included in the idea of kindness. The moral of goodness being rewarded by goodness is also illustrated in Western fairytales such as “Cinderella” and “Snow White.” In “jack and the Beanstalk,” although Jack was cheated by his parents and two clever elder brothers, who drove him out of the house, he didn’t mind. When, as a result of his goodness and generosity (in clever people’s eyes, he did what only fools would do), he found himself married to a princess and becoming the king, he invited his parents and brothers to share in his fortune.
Nowadays, in contrast, children often give up on themselves and bear grudges against their parents, blaming their parents for neglecting them or for failing to understand them. How far this is from the moral values of old！
Even though these are merely children’s tales, if they can instill the qualities of kindness and humaneness in our children—the future leaders of the country–then there is stilt hope for averting the crises of violence in our society. A proverb says﹕ “Calamities and blessings are not fixed; we bring them upon ourselves.” Many people who enjoy blessings are filial children. Those who can repay malice with kindness and be filial to hateful parents are the most filial of filial children, and Heaven will never forsake them！
親 有 過 ， 諫 使 更
qin you guo
jian shi geng
父母親 如果有 過失
勸告 使令 改正
parents have faults
to exhort to cause to change
If we recognize faults in our parents, we should exhort them to change for the better.
怡 吾 色 ， 柔 吾 聲
yi wu se
rou wu sheng
使歡愉 我的 臉色
使柔和 我的 聲調
to please my appearance
to soften my tone
While speaking to them, we should be gentle in appearance , and soften our tone.
To exhort people to change for the better refers？ especially to exhorting those of an older generation or in a higher position, for instance, a child exhorting his parents or a minister exhorting the king to change. One exhorts them to change, that is, to correct their bad habits, thoughts, and conduct. This verse describes the proper manner for dealing with the faults and offenses of one’s parents. This is a difficult situation to handle in modern society, because people put too much emphasis on individual development, freedom, and equality.
Today’s children are exceedingly independent and are not so willing to obey their parents. In ancient China, there was a common idea that one’s parents are faultless. The ancient Hebrews and Romans also believed that their kings and fathers deserved the highest respect. Before the1950’s, American children still addressed their parents with the utmost respect, always answering, “Yes, sir.” But all of these customs have gone with the wind. Is this good or bad? This is quite a controversy among educational experts, who cannot seem to come to a consensus. Let us set it aside for now, and take a look at how traditional Chinese children treated their parents.
When children see that their parents are at fault, should they try to cover for their parents, or should they try to give their parents some advice? Or should they explode at their parents and demand justice? This is actually a very complicated and delicate question. In general, we should definitely exhort them to not repeat the mistake, and to change for the better. True Filial piety is not just making our parents happy in the short term, but protecting them from a bad reputation. What if our parents get angry at us when we urge them to change? In principle, we have the right to calmly continue to advise them. However, in order to handle such matters appropriately, we need to look carefully at the conditions.
If our parents’ mistakes or faults are minor ones, we should continue to exhort them to change, not giving up even if they get so mad that they scold or hit us. If our parents’ faults are so serious that they might bring harm to other people, the family, or the country, and they refuse to listen to our advice, what should we do? The traditional Chinese solution would be to withdraw and dwell in sadness. However, the best solution would be to keep performing virtuous deeds to make up for our parents’ bad deeds, and to dedicate the merit to our parents in hopes that they will wake up and reform.
In the last years of the Ming dynasty, the Manchurians occupied most of China. Zheng Chenggong’s father, a general who owned a great deal of land and had a vast army of soldiers, decided to surrender to the Manchurians in order to save his own life and to gain prosperity. Again and again, Zheng Chenggong pleaded with his father not to surrender, as it was both a disloyal and a dishonorable action, but his father brushed him off as young and inexperienced. His mother, an upright and virtuous woman, disagreed with her husband’s disloyal action and committed suicide in order to teach her son that he should be loyal to the country rather than follow his father in name of a filial son. Consequently, Zheng Chenggong fled from his father’s camp with a group of loyal soldiers, and continued to fight against the Manchurians. Although his father was slain by the Manchurians and the Ming Dynasty perished in the end, Zheng Chenggong’s loyal actions and his merit in developing Taiwan are very important events in Chinese history and in the minds of all the Chinese.
By his actions, Zheng Chenggong saved his father from being despised and slandered by later generations. Don’t you agree, then, that his loyalty to the country actually was a form of filial piety to his parents? When we remonstrate with our parents, if we are not tactful, not only will we harm ourselves, but our parents will lose an opportunity to change. In admonishing our juniors, we may be either stern or gentle. In remonstrating with friends, we should speak to them seriously, because they are used to joking around with us and may not take us seriously otherwise.
Yet we must also choose our words carefully, so that they find our advice easy to accept. If they ignore our advice, we should not argue with them, or else they might get angry and harm someone. A wise person will not risk his life for a useless affair. How then should we remonstrate with our parents. First of all, we should never use a harsh tone of voice. It is said that parents and children should not request each other to uphold righteousness, for that would break the natural affection between them.
Therefore, we should use gentle expressions and a soft tone of voice, and let our parents know that we respect them and hold them in high regard. Our parents will then be comforted and willing to accept our advice. Feeling obliged to fulfill our expectations, they will feel shame and try their best to reform. In exhorting our parents to correct their faults, we should be gentle and persistent, like a piece of soft, sticky, and sweet candy, which is impossible to refuse.
The Great Master Chang-Ren was known as Filial Son Wang in Manchuria before he left home. How did he earn this name? His father was an opium addict, and Filial Son Wang used all his wages from his hard work to provide his father with opium. His father would always doze off after smoking opium, but no matter how long his father slept, he would faithfully wait by the bedside until his father woke up before he went off to rest. One day his father woke up and felt very ashamed. He decided to quit smoking opium, because he didn’t want to see his son working so hard during the day and then attending upon him like that after work.
In the Book of Odes, there’s a song called the Soft South-wind describing a widow with seven children who wished to marry again. Her children did not hate her at all, but instead blamed themselves for not fulfilling their duties in comforting their mother. We should learn these kinds of filial thoughts and the gentle ways of advising parents that the ancients used.
諫 不 入 ， 悅 復 諫
jian bu ru
yue fu jian
勸告 不能 入耳
愉快的 再 勸告
to advise cannot to enter
pleasant again to advise
If they cannot accept our advice, wait for better opportunities to exhort them again and again.
號 泣 隨 ， 撻 無 怨
hao qi sui
ta wu yuan
大聲 飲泣 跟隨
鞭打 不 怨恨
to cry loudly to weep to follow
to hit will not to blame
Even while exhorting them through tears, or if punished, we still will not complain.
The previous passage told us that when exhorting our parents to change their faults, we should be persistent. However, if our parents become upset, we should immediately stop and wait for a day when our parents are in a better mood to continue. Our persistence should be like the stickiness of taffy. Not only is it soft and sweet, but it is extremely sticky; we must not give up until our parents change for the better. If the need arises, we may even break down in tears, until our parents cannot bear to be willful anymore. What if, instead of listening to us, our parents scold us and say we are wrong, or even hit us? The ancient sages of China gave a good piece of advice﹕ “If they beat us with a small stick, we should endure it. If they come with a big stick, we should run away.”
Zeng Zi (Confucius’ disciple) was renowned for his filial piety. Once when he was digging the earth, he accidentally hacked through the root of a melon plant. His father was so furious that he grabbed a club and gave his son a fierce beating. Zeng Zi was lame for several days. But knowing that his father would feel bad if he knew, Zeng Zi acted happy and didn’t dare let his father find out that he had been seriously hurt. When Confucius heard about this, he not only didn’t praise Zeng Zi for being filial, but rather scolded him for being foolish and not filial. Why? Because he had allowed his parents to incur a reputation of unkindness. If Zeng Zi had ended up permanently crippled or dead, his father would undoubtedly have been imprisoned and punished, and would have had to suffer disgrace and regret for the rest of his life. One who truly understands the meaning of filial piety would not act so foolishly.
If our parents scold or hit us a few times, we might as well bear it, for the pain will go away soon. There’s no need to make a big deal and think they are abusing us. Actually, when parents hit their children, they feel the pain in their own hearts. However, if our parents lose their minds and beat us viciously, then it’s time to run and hide!
Nowadays people pay a lot of attention to the problem of child abuse, but the measures taken to prevent it are sometimes a bit excessive. Parents who occasionally punish their children may be charged with child abuse and have their children taken away from them; this results in unnecessary psychological harm to both sides. Sometimes children take advantage of this situation and use it to threaten their parents, so that parents don’t dare to be stern with their children. The lack of discipline has resulted in large numbers of juvenile delinquents. Today’s endless social problems are perhaps a consequence of the abuse of protective policies and the misunderstood notion of freedom.
In general, it would be best to find a happy medium. Genuine cases of child abuse should definitely not be overlooked. On the other hand, measures taken to prevent child abuse should not be so over reactionary that it becomes difficult for parents and teachers to discipline children.
There was a young girl whose mother got a divorce. After the divorce, the mother often drank and was very temperamental when she was drunk. If she got upset at her daughter, she would scold or beat her. One day the girl, who was twelve years old at the time, saw her mother beating her little sister, so she ran over to a neighbor’s house and called the Child Abuse Hotline for help. The court ruled that the mother was not fit to live with her children. The two sisters were separated and were sent to different foster homes. When the girl went to visit her mother, her mother ignored her. She felt sure that her mother hated her. Yet she found no genuine love or caring in her new foster home either. In reaction to criticism from the adults around her, she learned how to please and flatter them. Sometimes she let out her pent-up emotions and behaved violently toward other children.
When she grew more mature in high school, she made an effort to understand her biological mother. It was only then that she realized how lonely and without support her mother had been, how much she had yearned for her children and been filled with regret. Her mother was even more helpless than before, unable to set her life straight. The daughter hoped to patch up her broken family now, but the law wouldn’t allow it!
When children are growing up, there is a time when they are looking for models to follow and idols to worship. This time varies in length and intensity from person to person. Of course parents and elder family members are their earliest models, followed by teachers, famous people in society, and heroes in history. Since parents are the earliest models, they hold an indestructible place in a child’s heart. How much wisdom does a child have to judge whether or not his parents are at fault? When children discover that their parents can also make mistakes, imagine their shock and disappointment. Since children rely on adults to give them a standard for right and wrong, how difficult it must be when they not only have to overcome the shock of seeing their parents’ errors, but they have to take on the responsibility of exhorting their parents to change.
Nevertheless, we should not underestimate children’s intelligence and capabilities. If the children of ancient China were able to do it, so can the Chinese children of today. If Chinese children can do it, so can those of other nationalities. It’s just that today’s adults are overly protective of children, causing children to lose their natural adaptive abilities and become selfish and neurotic in- stead. Therefore, from all perspectives, it seems that we should go back to the ancient principles; that seems to be the most perfect solution .
親 有 疾 ， 藥 先 嘗
qin you ji
yao xian chang
父母親 如果有 疾病
藥劑 在先地 嘗試
parents have illness
medicine first to taste
When parents are sick, examine the medicine before giving the dosage.
晝 夜 侍 ， 不 離 床
zhou ye shi
bu li chuang
白天 夜晚 侍奉
不可 離開 床邊
day night to serve
do not to leave bedside
Wait on them day and night, without ever leaving their bedside.
This verse speaks of the child’s duties when his or her parents are sick. However, due to the changing times and social customs and the differing cultural backgrounds, this verse–especially the first line– has become a source of controversy and has lost its original meaning. If taken literally, how can we taste medicine before we give it to our parents? Isn’t it dangerous to casually take medicine that is not prescribed for one? Let us explain the meaning of the Chinese character “chang 嘗” for “taste,” and then this verse will become easier to understand.
The character chang was a term used in ancient China during harvest Lime. After the newly harvested crops were ritually offered to the mountain, forest, and earth spirit to give thanks, everyone would taste a little bit of the offering. That was known as chang xin 嘗新”tasting the new.” Thus chang meant “using the tip of the tongue to distinguish the flavor,” and it also came to mean “to taste” or “to give expert evidence. “
In ancient China, natural herbs were boiled and decocted to make medicine. Thus, chang meant to lightly taste the herbal decoction with the tip of the tongue, not to swallow it down. Of course, there is no way to taste modern medicines which come in the form of pills and capsules. All you would be able to taste is their sugar coating.
The purpose of tasting medicine is to determine (1) how hot it is, and (2) whether it is the correct prescription. Chinese herbal decoctions are effective only if taken warm. However, they cannot be too hot, for overly hot medicine can harm weak patients. Our hands are not reliable for measuring the temperature of the decoction, since the accuracy of the measurement would depend on the person measuring, the material of the container, and the properties of the medicine. The only way to do it is to lightly test the decoction with the tip of one’s tongue. A concerned filial child will not recklessly serve his parents a steaming hot or cold bowl of medicine.
How can one determine whether the medicine is the correct one? Among the numerous varieties of Chinese medicine, there are several thousand which are commonly used. Yet all of them can be classified according to the five flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, acidic, and salty. The five flavors are primarily used to treat the five organs: the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, and lungs. Generally speaking, sour medicine’s are used to treat liver diseases and rheumatism. Medicines of a sweet nature are used to treat diseases of the spleen and stomach, depression, and other such ailments. Bitter medicinal herbs are for the heart, acidic herbs for the lungs and bronchial tube, and salty ones for the kidneys.
As soon as one tastes it, one can get a general idea of whether the medicine obtained is the correct one. Although only someone who is well-versed in medical lore and the properties of medicines can get a really accurate idea, tasting the medicine before giving it to his or her parents is a gesture of concern on the part of a filial child. Now that we have a better understanding of this verse, we should have no reason to criticize it. With regard to the pills and tablets of modern medicine, the word “taste” can be interpreted as “examine,” that is, to make sure our parents take the right medicine at the right times and in the right dosages (because sometimes sick people have to take more than one kind of medicine). This is one of the reasons we should carefully attend to our parents when they are sick.
Sick people may be dizzy, or have trouble getting around, or be unable to feed themselves or to use the toilet; they need other people to help them in all aspects. When they are sad, afflicted, or afraid, they especially need others to support and console them. Taking care of sick people can be very hard, especially if one has financial difficulties, family responsibilities, or pressures from work or school. If one has to make many trips to the hospital to take care of a sick person who may not be in a normal state of mind, one may become physically and mentally exhausted. There. is a Chinese saying, “There are no filial children by the bedside of one who is chronically ill.” Yet. one cannot really blame the children. A filial child merits the name “filial” because he or she is able to rise above the crowd, practicing what is difficult to practice, and enduring what is hard to endure.
The second line of the verse says that we should wait on our sick parents day and night, without leaving their bedside. Although this may not always be possible in our modern society, we should still try our best to be filial. Our spirit should be one of “giving our all” without one bit of selfishness. As children, we should simply ask ourselves if we have done our best for our parents; the methods we use are not fixed, but can depend on the person, time, and situation.
Emperor Wen of the Han dynasty personally tasted his mother’s medicine, and he became one of the Twenty-four Filial Paragons of China. Although he was the emperor and was occupied with the myriad affairs of riding the country, he personally waited upon his mother day and night. This is truly remarkable. We shouldn’t try to find an excuse, saying, “Well, the emperor was wealthy and didn’t have to work to make a living. Of course he had the time and energy to take care of his mother around the clock. What’s the big deal about tasting her medicine once in a while?” Yet take a look at history in China and other countries and see how many filial children have come from rich families.
The line “Wait upon them day and night, without ever leaving their bedside” is talking about the spirit with which we should serve our parents. We shouldn’t become attached to the details of time and place and misunderstand the true intent of the sages.
In studying the classics, we have to grasp the spirit of the principles and practice them in our daily lives. Then we will be able to roam with the sages and worthies of old. We should not interpret the classics so literally that the meaning is lost, or else we will only taste the dregs of the noble ideas of the ancients. If we insist on condemning all the classics as outdated, we will gain no benefit from them. We are simply repeating what we hear, which is based upon mistaken views. If we treat the dregs as the cream and jump to conclusions like this, we are not doing justice to the ancients.
喪 三 年 ， 常 悲 咽
sang san nian
chang bei ye
經常地 悲傷地 哽咽
during the mourning period three year
always with grief to sob
During the three-year mourning period for one is deceased parents, one should constantly think of them with sorrow.
居 處 變 ， 酒 肉 絕
ju chu bian
jiu rou jue
平時的起居 舉止動作 改變
飲酒 食肉 斷絕
dwelling doings to be changed
drinking wine eating meat to be discontinued
One should change one’s usual ways of dwelling and doing things, and refrain from consuming alcohol and meat.
喪 盡 禮 ， 祭 盡 誠
sang jin li
ji jin cheng
辦理喪事 完全做到 合乎禮節
祭祀 完全做到 有誠心
to arrange funeral affairs to exhaust one is effort to accord with the rites
to make offerings to the utmost to be sincere
Make sure that the funeral arrangements accord with the rites, and whole-heartedly make offerings on their behalf.
事 死 者 ， 如 事 生
shi si zhe
ru shi sheng
事奉 去世的 的（人）
好像 事奉 活著的人
to serve dead one
as if to serve living one
One should respectfully serve one’s departed ancestors as if they were still alive.
In ancient China, people observed a three-year mourning period after their parents’ passing, during which they lived in seclusion and hardly ever went out. They restrained themselves from enjoying such comforts as a luxurious dwelling, fine food, and soft and beautiful garments, and also abstained from pleasures of the spirit, such as watching or taking part in musical or dance performances, banquets, parties, trips, hunts, and so on.
The rites of mourning applied to everyone from the emperor down to the common citizens. Some emperors went into mourning and stayed away from the court for three years, leaving the government to their ministers. They secluded themselves in the palace, wore coarse garments, and ate bland food. They didn’t visit their concubines or enter their gardens or ponds. They didn’t shave or cut their hair, and did not talk unless it was absolutely necessary. Such behavior won the praise of sages. Other public officials also returned to their villages for three years’ mourning. In modern terms, it would be equivalent to taking a leave of absence to go home. Ordinary people observed mourning by staying at home and not going to work. Those who were especially filial even built huts by the graveside of their parents and dwelt there.
Why did they restrain themselves in this way? Confucius was once asked by his disciple Zai Yu, “Why is there a three-year mourning period for parents? Isn’t one year long enough? If every person in the country stops practicing the rites and performing music for three years, won’t the rites and the music perish? All things, including the seasons, follow a yearly cycle; therefore, I think one year is enough,” Confucius asked him, “Would you feel comfortable wearing nice clothes and eating fine food only one year after your parents died?” Zai Yu answered frankly, “Sure, I’d be comfortable.” All Confucius could say was, “If you would feel comfortable, then just go ahead. When a person of true virtue mourns, he is so filled with grief that even if he eats fine food, he does not taste it; even if he hears fine music, it does not make him happy. In all the affairs of daily life, he feels no comfort or ease. That’s why he has no inclination to indulge in pleasure. If you feel comfortable, go ahead and have your way.”
After Zai Yu left, Confucius said, “Zai Yu is truly lacking in humaneness. After a child is born, it cannot leave its parents’ embrace for at least three years. Three years is the standard time of mourning for the whole country. I wonder whether Zai Yu loved his parents for three years.”
The rites were set down according to the sentimental inclinations of the majority of the people, so that everyone would be able to uphold them and order could be maintained in society; they are not empty rules imposed upon people to restrain their freedom. In ancient times, people were more simple and kind-hearted. The instinct for parents to be kind and children to be filial was ever present. Therefore, when their parents passed away, it was natural for people to lose their appetite and have trouble sleeping. Truly, “the kindness of our parents is vaster than the heavens,” and a lifetime of yearning for them would not be too much.
However we all have duties and responsibilities to fulfill in life, so we cannot withdraw from the world and indulge in mourning forever–that would not be the Middle Way. On the other hand, one year didn’t seem to be enough for mourning, so what could be done? As a compromise between the two, the period of three years was set as a token of repaying our parents for their toil in rearing us for the first three years of our lives.
等三年的喪期滿了，就應該節制自己的哀傷，恢復正常的生活。所以，當年孔子的學生子路，為他唯一的姐姐守完喪期後，還不忍除下喪服，孔子就告誡他﹕「你以為只有你才不忍心是不是？就路上可見的每個人，誰都是不忍心除下喪服的啊！可是先王制禮 ，本就為讓情感超過的人加以節制，讓悲痛不夠的人，能藉形式規定來改變自己。」由此可知，禮本是為了節制人情 ，使人在一個合理的範圍內 ，得到舒展情感的機會，並不在束縛人的手腳。
Once the three years are over, one should restrain one’s grief and return to a normal lifestyle. When Confucius’ disciple Zi Lu felt reluctant to take off his mourning garb after completing the period of mourning for his sister, Confucius admonished him, “You think you’re the only one who feels reluctant? Of all the people you meet on the road, who wouldn’t be reluctant to take off the mourning garments? But the reason the ancient kings set forth the rites was to help those who are overly emotional to restrain their emotions, and those who are not sufficiently mournful to transform themselves through the rites.” From this, we can see that the purpose of the rites is to help us restrain our emotions and express them within reason-able limits; it is not to deprive us of freedom. The rites are based upon principle and reason.
「禮者，理也」，倘若你有很足夠的理由 ，譬如賺錢養家、從軍服役或重大公務等，不能做到喪禮所要求的，是沒有人會責備你「 從權」的。禮以真誠為本，假若只拘泥於形式，而沒有誠心，就算守足三年的喪，又有什麼意義？還不如宰予來得坦白不造作。事實上，形式本是為多數人而設，當然也可以為多數人而改。今日的時代與社會，在經歷了這麼大的變遷之後，古人所定的禮儀當然可以不同，但是原則卻是不可移易的。
If you have good reason for not being able to carry out the rites of mourning, such as needing to earn money to support the family, being drafted into the military, or being involved in important public affairs, no one will blame you for being expedient. The rites are based on sincerity; if one were to concentrate only on external appearances and not have any real sincerity, then even if one observed the three-year mourning period, what meaning would it have? In that case Zai Yu’s frank and unpretentious manner would be preferable. Actually, since the external formalities were designed for majority of the people, they can certainly be altered by the majority. The present age and society is so different from ancient times, that of course, our rules of etiquette will be different from those followed by the ancients; however, the principle behind them unchangeable.
What is the principle? It is that of utmost sincerity. This is true not only of the rites of mourning, but also of the rites of burial and worship of the deceased. The ancients said, “One who is greatly filial thinks longingly of his parents for his or her whole life. ” That is to say， the thought of filial respect is the same whether one’s parents are alive or deceased. Some people are mean and not filial when their parents are living, and after their parents die, they may hold a grand funeral, perhaps hiring a professional “filial son” to cry in their stead, or perhaps having a great banquet with music and entertainment. Such hypocritical acts are both disgraceful and pitiful.
Zi Lu once lamented, “How miserable it is to be poor. One cannot support one’s parents well when they are alive, and one cannot give them a good funeral after they die.” Confucius consoled him, “As long as you do your best, even if you can only serve vegetable roots and plain water at the funeral, your parents will be happy. Who says you can’t fulfill your filial duties? Even if you can’t afford a coffin, if you can wrap the body with a straw mat so it won’t be exposed, this is in accord with the rites. Who says you can’t be filial? What does it matter if you are poor?”
Confucius’ view toward the rites of mourning and worship of the deceased was: first, if one performs them according to one’s status and financial situation, neither going overboard nor doing too little, then one is in accord with the rites. Secondly, one should genuinely feel sorrow and respect, which is to say, one should have the utmost sincerity.
兄 道 友 ， 弟 道 恭
xiong dao you
di dao gong
做哥哥 原則 友愛
做弟弟 原則 恭敬順從
to be an older brother the way to be kind to
to be a younger brother the way to be respectful
The way of an older brother should be gentle, just as younger brother should be respectful.
兄 弟 睦 ， 孝 在 中
xiong di mu
xiao zai zhong
哥哥 弟弟 和睦
孝道 存在 裏面
older brother younger brother to be harmonious
filial piety to be exist in it
If brothers and sisters get along harmoniously, then it is clear they know how to be filial.
There’s a verse that goes,
Born of the same energy,
we are connected branches that grow separately.
Why bicker and hurt each other’s feelings?
Each time we see each other, we are older.
How much time left do we have as siblings?
Brothers and sisters were born from the same parents. They are like the branches of a tree: Although they grow up separately, they originally come form the same root. We should never bicker and hurt each other’s feelings. Why not? Because time flies. Pretty soon we will have our own families and careers, and we’ll hardly get a chance to see each other. Every time we meet, we will be shocked to see that the other has gotten older. Human life only lasts a few short decades; how much longer will we have each other as siblings? If we don’t get along when we’re still young, then after we grow up we will bicker whenever we meet. But will we still have the strength to fight when we have wrinkles and gray hair? When we die, will we bring our grudges to the underworld? There’s an ancient saying: “The affinity of riding in the same boat with someone took five hundred years to develop.” How much more time it must take to develop the affinity to be someone’s brother or sister? Think about it: these are not minor conditions! All human relationships begin with that of husband and wife; then there is the vertical relationship of parent to child, and the horizontal relationship between siblings. These three basic relationships, which give rise to the nine generations of relatives, are considered one’s closest kin. How can we not he affectionate and close to them?
中國人把兄弟姐妹叫做「同胞」、「手足」，意思也就是強調這份情誼的貴重和不可分割。做父母的總把孩子們比喻成手指，雖然五指有長有短，卻根根連心，咬了哪 一根都一樣痛；雖然孩子有賢愚肖不肖，就像手心手背，終歸是同一隻手。所以孩子們若有貧富貴賤之別，就算發達的那個用錦衣美食來孝養，做父母的還是會惦掛著落魄的那個 ，難以真正開心；孩子們若再互相殘害，那做父母的就更不會安心了！所以懂得孝道真諦的，一定親厚自己的兄弟姐妹，絕不相爭；甚至在自己發達時，也不忘提拔照顧自己的兄弟姐妹，絕不相忘。
The Chinese refer to brothers and sisters as “those of the same womb” and “hands and feet,” emphasizing how important and inseparable our siblings are to us. Parents often compare their children to the fingers of a hand. Although the fingers are of different lengths, they are all connected at the base, and it hurts the same no matter which one is bitten. Children may be wise or foolish, filial or unfilial, but they are just like the palm and the back of the hand, which are part of the same hand. One child maybe wealthy and honored, while another is poor and lowly, but even though the wealthy one provides his parents with fine clothing and food, his parents can hardly feel happy in their anxiety over the less fortunate one. And if the children mutually hurt each other, how much the less could the parents be happy. A child who truly understands how to be filial is kind and affectionate to his siblings and would never quarrel with them. If such a child is successful in life, he/she will not forget to help out and lake care of his siblings.
During the Three Kingdoms Period (end of Han Dynasty, c. 241 -277 A.D.) the King of the state of Wei, Cao Cao, tried several times to let his favorite third son, Cao Zhi, inherit the throne in place of his eldest son, the crown prince Cao Pi. When Cao Pi assumed the throne, he removed the Han emperor and became the emperor himself and plotted constantly to kill Cao Zhi. Although his mother was the Empress Dowager, she was so nervous about this that she could never sleep in peace. Finally Cao Pi banished his younger brother to a distant land. When Cao Zhi went to court to bid farewell. Cao Pi deliberately challenged him to compose a poem in seven steps; if his brother failed, he would use it as a pretext to execute him. Unexpectedly, in the short time it took to walk seven steps, Cao Zhi chanted this famous “Seven-step Poem”﹕
The beans are being cooked Over a fire of bean stalks.
From within the pot, the beans cry out﹕
“We both came from the same root;
Aren’t we being too hasty in torturing each other？
“Cao Zhi’s meaning was, “I am like some beans being cooked in a pot, and the fuel that is used for the fire to cook me is you, my brother–the bean stalks that grew from the same root. Brother, why do you want to do me in？” Al that point, the Empress Dowager, who had been watching secretly, couldn’t bear it any longer. She ran out, hugged Cao Zhi. and cried for dear life. Cao Pi shed tears, too, and bid farewell to Cao Zhi.
An ancient saying goes, “There are no bonds of kinship in the imperial family.” Countless times the desire for power and position pitted father against son, or led brothers to kill one another. However, there have been exceptions. Emperor Shun became known as a greatly filial son because he remained ever filial to his father and stepmother even though they plotted his death many times. As for his stepbrother who was their accomplice, Shun didn’t hold it against him and even bestowed nobility and benefits upon him. This was a filial son who truly understood his parents’ hearts.
Another example is Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. Since he had earned great merit in battle as a prince, his eldest brother yielded the position of crown prince to him. After he assumed the throne, he renovated the residence he had used when he was a prince, building a tower which he called “The Mutual Shining of Flower and Calyx” there. On the four sides he built five palaces which he conferred upon his four brothers and a cousin. He called them “The Houses of the Five Kings.” If one climbed to the top of the tower, one could see the five king’s houses; it was just like the calyx and the flower mutually illumining each other.
Emperor Xuanzong often went hunting with his brothers, and during those playful times, the brothers followed the family etiquette among themselves; the Emperor never put on airs. If any one of his brothers got sick, he would not be able to eat or sleep in peace, and would constantly inquire after him. Once when he was boiling medicinal herbs for his little brother, he even burned his beard by accident. The things people like to tell about most are his “Flower and Calyx Blanket” and “Flower and Calyx Bed”-he had a long pillow, large blanket, and large six-person bed custom-made so that he and his brothers could sleep under the same covers. That’s why the term “flower and calyx” has come to be used to refer to brotherly affection.
In the families of ancient times, parents would carry a child in one arm and hold another by the hand; and the children would hang onto their parents’ lapel or the hem of their robe. They would sit down at one long table for meals, and clothing would be handed down form older siblings to younger ones. Siblings even slept under the same covers and shared the same pillow sometimes! And so even if some might be smarter or more obedient than others, in general they were all very close. When they got married and new members joined the family, there tended to be some discord. At that point, each person’s moral calibre would become apparent. In general, families in which siblings were taught to show respect and affection for one another had an easier time of it.
In modern families where there are fewer children, individualism is on the rise. Not only do those who are “the only child” have no idea of what filial piety and brotherly affection are, even those with several siblings still do their own thing ever since they are little; they don’t understand what it means to yield to, to accept, or to share with others. In a single family there might even be people leading three or four different kinds of lifestyles. People call this “freedom” and “progress”; little do they know that we are actually regressing to the state of primitive societies that had no laws or ethics. There is no time to be lose: let us quickly return to our old moral and ethical values!
財 物 輕 ， 怨 何 生
cai wu qing
yuan he sheng
錢財 物品 看得輕
嫌怨 從哪裏、哪裏 產生
wealth things to treat lightly unimportant
resentment How, from where to arise, be produced
If we do not think of wealth as important, how could resentment arise？
言 語 忍 ， 忿 自 泯
yan yu ren
fen zi min
言辭 談話 忍讓
忿恨 自然地 消失、 泯滅
words talk to be patient
resentment naturally, by itself to disappear
When words are both gentle and patient, bad feelings will naturally disappear.
A superior person should restrain himself in three ways during his life.
In his youth, when he is not yet physically mature,
he should refrain from lust.
In the prime of life, when his physical vigor is at its peak, he should refrain from fighting.
In his old age, when his physical strength has declined, he should refrain from acquiring things.
This quote makes clear that a person creates karma throughout his entire life. There are millions of different kinds of people in the world, and they create millions of different kinds of karma. Yet these various kinds of karma can be divided into two main categories﹕ one is karma created in the struggle for fame, and the other is karma created in the struggle for profit. Most people create both kinds.
Intoxicated with the desire for fame and profit, they may even forsake the close ties of family, how much the more other things. Can the problem be solved by giving them more wealth and status? That would be like using firewood to put out a fire; it only makes the fire blaze higher. Their greed would only increase, making them strive all the more eagerly. As it’s said, “People are never satisfied; they are like a snake wishing to swallow an elephant.” “Desire is like a bottomless pit.” The cause of their strife is not that they do not have enough, but that they are greedy. Therefore the fundamental solution is to teach children not to contend. This is the basic way to resolve personal problems, restore order in society, and stop war between nations.
No form of education is more important than the education given to young children. Such instruction begins at home. The ancient sages prescribed the following order of teaching: “From being filial to parents, one learns to be kind to all people. From being kind to all people, one learns to love all creatures.” Therefore, they first emphasized filial piety and fraternal respect, and taught people to attend well upon their parents.
Filial piety involves a full set of duties including serving one’s parents when they are alive and after they pass away, including making offerings to them. These are obligations that a child must diligently carry out for his whole life. People who are filial their whole lives will naturally be law-abiding citizens who show tender concern to all. Thus it is said, “Let there be careful attention to performing the funeral rites for parents, and let them be followed when long gone with the ceremonies of sacrifice; then the virtue of the people will resume its proper excellence.” The practice of filial piety includes within it the practice of fraternal respect. As the text said earlier, “If brothers and sisters get along harmoniously, then it’s clear they know how to be filial.” How can there be harmony among siblings？ First, they must be taught not to contend. How can they be taught not to contend? They have to be taught to be patient-to have the patience to endure scoldings, sufferings, hard- ships, and all sorts of unfair treatment.
Many modern educators do nothing but warn parents to pay attention to their children’s feelings. As a result of the overemphasis of this point, children have become spoiled to the point that they only think about whether or not things are fair to them, and they will not yield in the least. Only aware of their own discomfort, they never give any consideration to others’ difficulties. When they are growing up at home, they complain about small things, such as: “How come my brother can go out to play, and I can’t?” “How come Sis has new clothes, and I don’t?” They complain about every little thing that they think is “not fair.” What happens when they get upset over things not being fair? They fight! They argue! As children they bicker over small things, but by the time they grow up they contend over big things. At home they bicker with their brothers and sisters; at school they argue with their classmates; and in society they contend with their fellow citizens. With such competition over fame and profit at all levels of society, how can chaos not result? Therefore, only by starting at home and teaching children to lessen their desires, to be patient with unfairness, and to learn to take losses, can we stop people from contending.
I have a friend who has three daughters. Every time she gets paid, she goes out to buy toys or clothing for them. And when she buys clothes, she always gets three sets of the same thing. Thinking economically, I advised her, “Children grow very fast and outgrow their clothes almost immediately. Why don’t you buy one of everything and let them hand it down from the older to the younger sisters?” I was taken aback by her sharp retort: “Why should the younger ones always have to wear hand-me-downs?” I cautiously tried to make another suggestion: “Well, at least they could each buy a different style, couldn’t they?” “No. If the style is different, it’s not fair either. If they thought someone else’s was better than theirs, they’d start bickering. I had enough of my mother’s unfair treatment, and I’ll never let my own children undergo that kind of injustice.”
Later I found out that she was the second of three sisters. Ever since she was little, she felt her parents had favored the eldest and adored the youngest, but had neglected her. That’s why she had always quarreled with her mother and sisters, and had not communicated with them for many years. Ten years later, I heard that not only did her three daughters not get along, but they all blamed her, and so she was very lonely. From this, we can see that insisting on superficial fair treatment or trying to please kids with material things is not the way to teach them how not to contend. The fundamental solution is to work on their hearts and minds. If we can teach children to reduce their desires, what could they possibly contend about？ If we can teach them to tolerate unfair treatment, how could they possibly get into arguments?
古詩說得好﹕ An ancient poem puts it well:
we can get along well with our brothers and sisters.
Do not start fights over little things.
As siblings, we ought to set a good example
for our children and grandchildren to follow.
Little things means trivial matters. What is trivial? Wealth is trivial, and so is fame and romance, because none of them are lasting. What is important? Integrity and moral virtue are the most important things, because they never perish. The development of integrity and virtue begins with filial piety and fraternal respect. If we ourselves do not understand how to be good to our own parents and siblings, then of course we can’t teach our children to be good to their parents and siblings, and we’ll have to suffer the bitter consequences. As is the cause, so will be the result. How can we not take heed?
或 飲 食 ， 或 坐 走
huo yin shi
huo zuo zou
或者 喝飲料 吃東西
或者 坐著的時候 走路的時候
whether drinking eating
whether sitting walking
While eating or drinking, or when walking or sitting.
長 者 先 ， 幼 者 後
zhang zhe xian
you zhe hou
輩分長 的人 在前面
輩分輕 的人 在後面
elder one at first
younger one in back
Let those who are older go first, the younger ones should follow behind.
The tradition of virtue cannot be established all at once. It requires the accumulated efforts of a great many virtuous individuals. An individual’s virtuous character is not developed overnight either; it must be nurtured from childhood by his family.
China is an ancient country which values propriety and the ability to yield; it has produced countless sages and great men who were renowned for their propriety and ability to yield. There are many examples in which the country was governed by means of propriety and yielding. Propriety is not apart from yielding; yielding must accord with propriety. The two complement and benefit one another. If something is not in accord with the rules of propriety, it should basically not be done at all; how much the less should one consider whether or not to yield.
Between siblings, the elder sibling should be kind, and the younger one should be respectful. Elder brothers and sisters should want to let their younger siblings enjoy the advantages, and younger siblings should want to yield the advantages to their older siblings. In that way, how can the family not be harmonious and how can there not be prosperity?
King Wu of Zhou was the founder of the Zhou dynasty. His great grandfather, the Ancient Lord of Tan, had three sons: Taibo, Zhongy- ong, and Jili. The Ancient Lord of Tan favored the son of Jili and thought this son could certainly cause the Zhou dynasty, founded by the Ji clan, to flourish. That’s why he named this boy Chang (“flourishing”) and wanted him to become the ruler of the Zhou dynasty. However, the only way this could happen would be for the boy’s father Jili to inherit the throne. Therefore the two elder brothers, Taibo and Zhongyong, retreated to Nanman [region inhabited by barbarous tribes in the south of China] so that the throne would pass to their younger brother Jili. However, before and after the death of their father, Jili three times tried to yield the throne to his two older brothers and refused to assume the throne himself.
Taibo and Zhongyong resorted to adopting the manner of the local tribes, cutting their hair short and wearing it loose, and making tattoos on their body. They did this to show that they were resolved not to return to their state, so that Jili could assume the throne without worry. Later, Jili’s son Jichang indeed became a leader of exceptional wisdom who won people over by means of his virtue. The various small states from all around turned away from the tyrant Emperor Zhou of Shangand allied themselves under him, so that he gained the support of two-thirds of the country. After King Wu of Zhou attacked EmperorZhou and united the whole country under the new dynasty of Zhou, he bestowed the title “King Wen of Zhou” upon his father, Jichang. KingWen was a ruler of sagely wisdom. His teachings of propriety, his laws, his system of government, and the eight trigrams of the Book of Change which he calculated have had a profound and far-reaching influence on Chinese history and culture.
The two elder brothers, Taibo and Zhongyong, who had retreated to the south of China, were elected as leaders by the local natives because of their outstanding virtue and talent. Later on they founded the state of Yu. The descendants of the state of Yu later moved to the lower reaches of the Yangzi River, where they founded the state of Wu. They accepted the protection offered by Zhou and became a feudal state under the Zhou dynastic rule. During the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period, the state of Wu grew and gained strength until in the reign of King Shoumeng it became a great state. Of the King’s four sons, the youngest one, Jizha, possessed the greatest talent and virtue. King Shoumeng believed that the only way the state of Wu could prosper would be for Jizha to become king. But Jizha adamantly refused to become the crown prince ahead of his three older brothers. Right before he died. King Shoumeng instructed his four sons that the throne was to be passed not from father to son, but from older brother to younger brother, until it passed to the youngest brother, Jizha.
After the King passed away, the eldest brother tried to yield the throne directly to Jizha, but had no success, so he could only assume the throne himself first. Since he was always going to battle without regard for his own life, it was not long before he was shot to death on the battlefield. After the second brother became king, he constantly prayed to heaven for an early death. Why? Because he felt the state of Wu had reached its prosperity because its founder (the Ancient Lord of Tan) had chosen its ruler on the basis of virtue rather than seniority. What was more, the state of Wu had been founded as a result of the yielding of the two elder brothers Taibo and Zhongyong. Thus yielding among brothers was a family tradition, and he was willing to emulate this virtue of his ancestors. That’s why he wanted to die sooner so that Jizha could become the King of Wu earlier. Not long afterwards, he was also killed in battle.
When the third brother became King, he asked Jizha to help rule the state as prime minister. Jizha felt that with so much warfare, there was no way for the people to live in peace and security. Thus he traveled throughout the states making goodwill missions as a “peace ambassador. “His lofty virtue and exceptional talent and intelligence won the respect of the other feudal lords, and as a result the state of Wu enjoyed many years of peace. But the third brother died after only four years as king. Right before his death he tried to pass the throne to Jizha, but Jizha still refused and retreated to Yanling to live. With Jizha’s abrupt departure, the ministers of Wu panicked and hastily set up the third brother’s son, Prince Liao, as king.
At this turn of events, Prince Guang, the son of the eldest brother, was unhappy; he thought that if Jizha didn’t want to be the king of Wu, the throne should pass to him. Yet King Liao of Wu didn’t show the slightest intention of yielding the throne, which dissatisfied him even more. Later, taking advantage of the fact that Jizha was away visiting the state ofJin, he sent an assassin to kill King Liao. When Jizha returned. Prince Guang made a show of yielding the throne to him, saying that he wished to honor the wishes of his grandfather, father, and two uncles. Jizha said to him, “You were dead set on being the King of Wu. Now you’ve obtained what you wanted; what are you yielding it up for? Whoever the king is, as long as he treats the people well, I will support him. ” Thus Prince Guang became the King of Wu and changed his name to He Lyu.
Since Jizha felt greatly ashamed at the way Prince Guang had usurped the throne from King Liao, he stayed in Yanling for the rest of his life and did not concern himself with the affairs of the state of Wu anymore. In history he is honorically referred to as the Prince of Yanling. After King Helyu of Wu was killed in battle with the state of Yue and his son Fucai assumed the throne, the state of Wu was conquered by the state of Yue.
From the two stories above, we can see that the auspicious blessings brought by propriety and yielding can enable a country to prosper for a long time. On the other hand, there is no greater misfortune than the violence brought about by strife and contention. If this is the case for a country, would it not be the case for a family? There is a common saying, “When siblings get along, the family will not break up.” If we want siblings to get along, we have to teach our children so they can understand the order governing seniors and juniors, and so they will know to practice propriety and yielding in all matters in their daily life.
長 呼 人 ， 即 代 叫
zhang hu ren
ji dai jiao
長輩 叫喚 他人
就、立刻 替 叫喚
elder to call someone
then; immediately do things for others to call
If an elder is looking for someone, we should look for that person for him.
人 不 在 ， 己 先 到
ren bu zai
ji xian dao
自己 在先的 到前面
someone not there
self first to go to
If the person they want is not there, we should first respond to the call.
In speaking of the doctrine of Confucius, Zeng Zi said, “The doctrine of our teacher is simply loyalty and forgiveness.” Loyalty means to do one’s best. We must finish whatever we start. It also means having a cautious and respectful attitude, and an attitude of fairness and equality. Forgiveness means not doing to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself. This is an attitude of considering others’ feelings, and is therefore great compassion. To have these good virtues, one must start developing them at home when one is young.
For example, running errands for our elders can train us to be cautious and respectful in handling business. Why? Our elders must have urgent business to take care of when they call for someone. “When there’s a task to be done, we as disciples should help out,” so of course we must go and find the person they want to see. If the person we are looking for cannot be found and we don’t go back to report to our elders, they will be there waiting and will be very worried. Wouldn’t that be irresponsible on our part? So we must finish the errand completely. Not only should we go back to tell our elders that we can’t find the person, we must ask further if they have anything else we can do. This kind of careful respect will help us to develop a sense of responsibility. A responsible person will not handle matters as if he didn’t care, nor will he start out with big plans but end up doing very little. He is someone who can take on heavy responsibilities. This is the spirit of loyalty. Do not think that running errands for people is a petty chore; great virtues all begin with the practice of small deeds.
Not calling elders by their first name is also a sign of cautiousness and respect. Children nowadays not only call their elder brothers and sisters by their first names, but also call their parents and elders by name. Some people defend this trend, saying that it lessens the distance between people, but in actuality it is opening the door to there being no distinction between elders and children. What is the result of all this? Children will become too familiar with their parents when they are little, and will not know to respect their parents. When children reach their pre-teens, if the parents do not fulfill their wishes, they will feel that their parents don’t care about them anymore. When they grow up they will rebel and become unfilial children. Therefore when children are young, if the parents do not require them to respect their elder brothers and sisters, and merely think they are kidding and are cute when they speak and act with bad manners, later on the parents will experience anger.
Why shouldn’t we exceedingly show off ourselves in front of the elders? There is a saying which reads, “One should only reveal 30% of himself”, and another which reads, “It is not the one that hides the treasure who is to be blamed, but the treasure that is hidden by him that is to be blamed.” We will cause less jealousy if we do not show off ourselves. It is not only to protect ourselves, but also to show compassion towards others. Just imagine, if someone tries to boast about himself regarding things that we are unable to do, we will we feel intimidated or embarrassed. From these small gestures, we can start to nurture a compassionate mind and learn to be considerate of others. This is “forgiveness.”
稱 尊 長 ， 勿 呼 名
cheng zun zhang
wu hu ming
稱呼 尊貴的人 年長的人
不要 叫 名字
to address honored one elder
do not to call out name
In speaking to those who are older, use the proper terms of respect.
對 尊 長 ， 勿 見 能
dui zun zhang
wu xian neng
面對 尊貴的人 年長的人
不要 賣弄 才能
to face honored one elder
do not to show off ability
When facing our teachers and elders, do not show off or try to look smart.
路 遇 長 ， 疾 趨 揖
lu yu zhang
ji qu yi
道路 遇見 長輩
迅速地 快步向前 拱手作禮
road to meet elder
quickly to go forward to bow
If we meet an elder on the road, we should quickly approach him and bow.
長 無 言 ， 退 恭 立
zhang wu yan
tui gong li
長輩 沒有 說話
退開一邊 恭敬地 站著
elder not speak
to withdraw respectfully to stand
If the elder does not speak to us, we should respectfully stand aside.
George Bernard Shaw was a famous British playwright whose plays are very popular. But because he was of low birth, there were members of the aristocratic class who looked down upon him. Onetime when he was invited to a big party, a well-dressed young man saw him and asked haughtily, “I heard your father is a tailor, is that so?” Shaw answered with a smile, “You’re absolutely right.”
The man said, “Why don’t you learn from your father? Even though this was quite an insult to Shaw, he showed not the slightest trace of anger. Instead he asked the man, “I heard your father is a very well-mannered gentleman, is that so?” “Absolutely,” replied the young man. “Then why don’t you learn from your father?” asked Shaw. That arrogant young man had not known how to respect his elder, and so he ended up insulting himself.
In contrast, during the Han dynasty in China there was a man named Zhang Liang. This man was able to accomplish great deeds because he respected his elders. One day he happened to walk across a bridge. At one end of the bridge sat an old man. The old man deliberately threw his shoes under the bridge and told Zhang Liang to go pick them up. He repeated this three times, and Zhang Liang patiently retrieved the shoes three times and help the old man put them on. Thus he won the approval of the old man—the Huangshigong (Venerable Yellow Stone), and as a present the old man gave him a book. Zhang Liang used the esoteric principles in that book to help Liu Bang win his battles, and he became one of three men who helped found the Han dynasty.
From these two small anecdotes, we can see that the more virtuous and refined a person is, the more he will respect his elders and the more he is likely to succeed. Conversely, the more shallow and uneducated a person is, the more arrogant he is and the more he is likely to get insulted. If we are always cautious, respectful, and compassionate in how we treat people and handle matters, we are really benefiting others as well as ourselves. If we are young and don’t understand much, we should of course respect our elders. If we have some accomplishments, we should still be very humble. We cannot show off our talents, for if the matter is small we might get insulted, and if it’s big we might bring harm and embarrassment to our family. It could even be so serious as to bring the whole country to ruin.
Here is another anecdote. Once an artist was crossing a river on a small boat. He was showing off and asked the boatman, “Do you understand art?” The boatman shook his head. The artist said, “Then you’ve lost one-third of your life.” Then he asked, “Do you understand music?” The boatman said, “Nope” The artist said, “Then you’ve lost another third of your life.” All of a sudden a storm came up, creating a lot of waves. The boat rocked dangerously. The boatman asked the artist, “Can you swim? “The artist nervously said no. The boatman smiled and said, “Then you’ve lost three-thirds of your life” Dear friends, I hope we are not as ignorant as this artist!
Many people think that young people nowadays do not know their manners; or that Westerners are less respectful to elders than Easterners. But such ideas are not necessarily true. There are good and bad people in every race, every social class, and every age group. What is more, the rules of etiquette are set in accord with the time and situation. Why should we discriminate on the basis of differences of race, culture, and customs? Although there are differences of east and west, young and old, rich and poor, and noble and lowly, there is one thing that all people share in common–the basic goodness of the human nature. Whether a person develops a good or bad character depends upon his environment and education.
Every country has its own age-old traditions and rules of etiquette which are suited to its people. But now that technology has advanced and the world has shrunk, the culture and traditions of every country must change a little so as to harmonize with those of other countries. In setting up new rules of etiquette, we should choose what is reasonable and proper, rather than taking the most “advanced” and powerful nations as a standard. Our life span passes in the blink of an eye. We will all age and get old. If we don’t respect elders when we are young, who will respect us when we are old? In teaching the next generation, our first priority is to teach them to respect their elders. Then there will be order between young and old, and naturally there won’t be fighting among people.
These lines of “The Rules for Being a Student” describe rules of etiquette from ancient China. Although the times have changed, the spirit of these rites cannot be discarded. If we meet an elder on the road, we should take the initiative and greet him first. Before he has dismissed us, we cannot act as if we are in a rush to leave. We ought to let our elder leave first. Although we don’t have to wait until he has taken a hundred steps, we should at least respectfully see him off, not just turn around and leave right away. If we have urgent business and need to leave early, we have to excuse ourselves first; we can’t just turn and leave without any explanation. This is also a sign of respect and cautiousness.
騎 下 馬 ， 乘 下 車
qi xia ma
cheng xia che
乘坐 下來 車輛
to ride an animal to get down horse
riding to get down carriage
When we riding on a horse or in a carriage and meet an elder walking on the road, we should get down from the horse or carriage to greet him.
過 猶 待 ， 百 步 餘
guo you dai
bai bu yu
過去 還 等待
to pass by still to wait
one hundred (the distant of) steps overplus
Having waited until the elder has passed us more than a hundred steps, we can then go on.
Stephanie moved to Long Beach, California, in the mid-seventies. At that time, she went to classes at a college in the morning, went from the college to her job at a restaurant in the afternoon, and went from there back home in the evening. She got to all of these places by bus, and she had to change buses twice. Since her schedule was pretty regular, she usually ended up seeing the same bus drivers. After some time she became quite acquainted with them. If Stephanie happened to be a little late, the bus drivers would wait for her.
Most of the drivers were middle-aged, but they were all very healthy and very kind. The younger ones were a little more impatient and drove a bit fast, but on the whole they were nice people. Sometimes if there were elderly people who couldn’t make it to the bus stop on time, the driver would wait for them. Or if some elders needed to get off a little ways before the bus stop, the driver would often stop right there so they wouldn’t have to walk so far.
There was one middle-aged black bus driver who was particularly respectful to the elderly, and who made a deep impression on Stephanie. When some of the elders had trouble getting on the bus, he would give them a hand and have them sit in the front rows. When they reached their stop, he would help them off the bus. The second time Stephanie saw this bus driver, he happily greeted her and praised her for being a good and kind little girl. The reason was that one day when she was on the bus, he had seen her yield her seat to an elderly person. Sometimes when there were few passengers, she would sit in the front rows, and the bus driver would talk to her. At that time her English was very poor , and she could listen more than she could speak. From talking with him she found out a lot about his conduct. It’s too bad she can’t remember his long name. She only knows that others called him Al.
Al was born in the countryside in Georgia. There were ten children in his family, and he was a devout Catholic. He said that when he was young, his parents taught him compassion, respect, and patience. When Stephanie told him that was similar to the traditional Chinese education, he was very happy. After a few years Stephanie started her own chain of stores, and she needed a good and honest manager near Long Beach. She immediately thought of Al, but she couldn’t find him anywhere. She didn’t know if he was still a bus driver, or if he had retired or changed his job.
A kind and compassionate person is always respectful towards others and knows how to carry himself. Other people like to be around him. There is a little poem called “Lovely Child.” Although this poem talks about girls, boys can also learn something from it. Let’s hope everyone can be a good and respectful child.
Modest as a violet, As a rosebud sweet-
That’s the kind of little girl People like to meet.
長 者 立 ， 幼 勿 坐
zhang zhe li
you wu zuo
年長的 人 站起來
年輕人 不可以 坐下來
older one standing
younger ones do not to sit down
When an older person is standing, the young ones should not take a seat.
長 者 坐 ， 命 乃 坐
zhang zhe zuo
ming nai zuo
年長的 人 坐下來
吩咐、命令 才、於是 坐下來
older one sitting
to order then to sit down
We should wait till the elder is seated, and sit down only when we are told.
Once when a department store put a want ad in the newspapers for an administrator, within three days eighty-some people showed up, virtually all of them bringing a letter of recommendation with them. After interviewing all of them, the manager finally hired a young man who had not brought a letter. When others expressed their surprise, the manager explained, “Everyone else brought only one letter of recommendation, but this young man brought three letters. When he walked into my office, he gently shut the door behind him; this was a letter describing his cautiousness. During his conversation with me, his voice was clear and his responses were logical; that was a letter telling me about his intelligence. When an older person came into my office, he quickly stood up; that was a letter telling me about his courteousness. His three letters of recommendation revealed themselves in his behavior; everyone else’s letters were merely written on paper.”
From this story, we can see that developing the habit of respecting our elders and speaking in a way that is neither lowly nor overbearing will ensure our success in dealing with people and matters. People are social creatures who cannot live in total isolation. We must seriously learn how to dwell in harmony with people in order to develop our own potentials so we can help the common good. This is the lesson of a lifetime, and the sooner and the more thoroughly we learn it, the smoother our life will be. Hence, early childhood education should stress filial piety and brotherhood first, teaching children to respect their parents. When they grow up and go out into the society, they will naturally be courteous and well-mannered; that is the first step in relating successfully to other people.
Some people may say, “In doing great deeds, one should not be hampered by fine details, why should we be so rigid?” This is only saying that we don’t always have to be too attached to minor points of etiquette; it doesn’t mean we can be disrespectful to our teachers and elders in our minds. Respect should come from the heart. However, everyone’s outlook and standard is different, so sometimes we run into problems. Children of today are very liberal in their outlook and very good at arguing their own views. If you tell them to respect their teachers and elders, they might respond by telling you certain things about their teacher or elder, implying that the person is not worth respecting. They often ask you, “If you ask me to show respect, aren’t you just asking me to put on a false front? It’s not for real.” Many parents are left speechless; they don’t know how to reply.
As parents, teachers, and elders, not only should we always reflect upon ourselves and improve our own character and conduct, we should try to teach children the correct way of thinking, which is that we should bring forth heartfelt respect for three kinds of people: (1) those who are more virtuous than we are, (2) those who are older than we are, and (3) those who have higher position than we do. I think probably everyone will agree that the first kind of person deserves respect. But we should also respect the latter two kinds of people regardless of their character. Why? There’s a proverb, “The trials and tribulations take up 80 or 90 percent of our life.” You could say there’s more suffering than joy, more disasters than peace. If you think about how long our elders have struggled to be able to survive and be elders, wouldn’t you say they are worthy of respect? Think about how much hard work teachers and high officials have put in to get where they are now. Don’t they deserve our respect? What’s more, everyone will get a turn to be honored as an elder. Therefore, whatever you want to harvest, you first have to plant. If you explain it to your children like this, they will gradually understand and start to respect elders and worthy ones from their heart. You should never force children into putting on a false show of courtesy and turning into hypocrites. On the other hand, don’t be so lenient with then that they turn into wild kids with no sense of appreciation for all they have received.
Reverence for elders and veneration for virtuous ones has always been a wholesome tradition in China. The Zhou Dynasty rite of “toasting,” taken from the custom of the rural villagers, served to strengthen family bonds and neighborly harmony, and to allow young people to practice respecting their elders. Furthermore, in ancient times the Chinese people treated their teachers like honored guests. When sitting, the host would sit on the east side and invite the teacher to sit on the west side facing him. Thus the teacher came to have the honorific title “West-Seated One” or “Western Guest.” Even the nobility followed these rules of etiquette for respecting teachers. Many emperors and princes, when they were living as civilians, would treat their teachers with the respect of a disciple, and would not let the teacher bow to them. The story of how “Cheng’s students stood while it snowed” is a wonderful example of respect for one’s teacher.
It goes like this: Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao were two brothers in the Song Dynasty who were both renowned Confucian scholars with many disciples. The elder brother Cheng Hao was jovial and quick-witted. People praised him and said that listening to his lectures was like “sitting in the spring breeze for three months.” His younger brother, Cheng Yi, was solemn and serious, and his students held him in respect and awe. Once when two of his students were attending upon him, Cheng Yi suddenly fell a sleep. Since he had not bidden them to leave, the two students dared not do so, but respectfully continued to stand on either side of their teacher. When he woke up, the students took their leave and discovered that the snow outside the door was already knee-deep. This story has been passed down to later generations as an illustration of respect for a stern teacher. Although we need not rigidly hol to old-fashioned rules of etiquette in modern society, the attitude of sincere respect is something that never changes with time.
尊 長 前 ， 聲 要 低
zun zhang qian
sheng yao di
尊貴的人 年長的人 面前
聲音 需要 降低
honored elder in front of
voice should be to lower
When talking in front of our elders, we should lower our voice.
低 不 聞 ， 卻 非 宜
di bu wen
que fei yi
反而 不是 合宜的
low can not be heard
on the contrary is not appropriate
But to speak so low that no one can hear us is not the appropriate way.
In ancient times, people considered proper manners in speaking and interacting with others an important part of a child’s education. In addition to being respectful, we should speak with others in a forthright manner. We should use a moderate tone of voice, and avoid speaking in a sharp, high-pitched voice, which gives people the feeling that we are showing off or arguing.
If we keep talking and laughing and making a lot of noise, people will feel we are hyperactive. On the other hand, if we always mumble and whisper, others will feel contempt and impatience. We should not be looking here and there as we speak, because that gives the impression of being frivolous and scatter-brained. How much the less should we do these things in the presence of our elders! If our elders are hard of hearing, we should speak loudly, but not sharply.
In addition to modulating the tone of voice, we ought to show the proper courtesy. If we remain seated when our elders ask us a question, they will be forced to bend down to speak to us. Not only is that a poor posture for speaking, but it will tire them out; that shows a lack of respect and understanding on our part.
When we are going to meet our elder, we should approach quickly with small steps. It might seem affected, but actually it’s a way of showing our earnest reverence.
In ancient China, when the moral culture was well-developed, most people would regard their teachers and elders as fondly as they would their own parents. Not only were they eager to serve them, but they were delighted to see them. When they had an appointment with an elder, they didn’t want to keep their elder waiting, so they would go quickly. Yet they feared that if they took large strides or ran up to their elder, they would startle him, so they approached with quick, light steps. When it was time to leave, they could hardly bear to go, but they didn’t want to bother their elder too long, so they departed with reluctant steps. They were that cautious in every move they made, always observing courtesy and reason. They acted from their hearts, but restrained themselves with propriety. How could those who are shallow and rash understand this? How could those who are phony or rigid learn this?
Our every gesture and move is a response to and an expression of our inner feelings. If those responses and expressions are excessive or deficient, they must be restrained or corrected by the rules of propriety. Then our actions will accord with courtesy as well as with reason. Propriety is itself defined as reason. However, if we adhere too rigidly to the rules of propriety and get caught up in the external form, while lacking true feeling, we are even worse than the person who has true feeling but isn’t familiar with the rules of propriety.
There are many strict households and schools where parents and teachers expect children to behave like well-brought-up “gentlemen and ladies.” But if you observe these children closely, you might find that many of them arc not only phony, but selfish and self-centered. To teach children to accord with courtesy as well as reason, we must start by educating them in ethics. The earlier ethical education begins, the better; what is more, parents and teachers have to be good role models.
I remember an English film in which the setting was a private boarding school. The protagonist was a righteous student who was going to be expelled, because he had led a protest against the principal for his harsh treatment of his roommate. The principal was a morally upright gentleman who was known for strictness. He was held in awe and respect by students and teachers alike. In the end, it turns out that the roommate had been threatened by the principal after he accidentally found out that the principal was having an affair. In order to cover up his first mistake, the principal made one mistake after another, leading to many tragedies.
First the weak-willed roommate broke down under the pressure and committed suicide. Then one of the teachers resigned, because he refused to bear false witness against that student, the way the other teachers and students had done. Then the leaderless students started fighting among themselves, until the school finally had to be blockaded. When the student read the letter written by his dead roommate, all the students cried. One of the lines in the letter said, “ Being a weak person, I had continued living only because I wished to protect the person I respected the most. Today I have bravely chosen to die in this way, because my shattered idol is no longer worth protecting.”
Fellow parents and teachers! If we wish to teach our children and students to be earnest and proper in their interactions with others, let us be good models for them. Let us first learn to follow the, “Rules for Being a Student.” ourselves.
事 諸 父 ， 如 事 父
shi zhu fu
ru shi fu
如同 侍奉 父親
to serve all uncles
as to serve father
We should serve all our uncles as respectfully as we serve our own fathers.
事 諸 兄 ， 如 事 兄
shi zhu xiong
ru shi xiong
如同 侍奉 哥哥
to serve all older cousins
as to serve brother
We should be as friendly with our older cousins as we are with our own older brothers.
There is a couplet that says:
There is nothing in the world that does not come from parents;
we realize this only when we are without parents.
Brothers are the hardest to come by in the world.
But we don’t realize it when our brothers are around.
Our closest human relationships are with our parents, and secondly with our brothers, teachers, and elders. Therefore, filial piety and fraternal respect are the foundation for education in human ethics. When one builds a house, one must first lay a solid foundation. The foundation stones of the pillars of the house have to be set securely, or else the house may topple. Filial piety and fraternal respect are not be taken in the narrow sense of referring only to one’s own parents and brothers. Filial piety should be extended to our uncles and all our elders. Fraternal respect should expand to include our cousins and all others who are of the same generation or of later generations. In other words, these virtues should encompass all people and all sentient beings. This is the ultimate significance of the Buddhist spirit of “great kindness for those with whom we have no affinities, and the great compassion of being one with all.” The later verses discuss the cultivation of trustworthiness and harmony in one’s social interactions and handling of affairs. For now we will return to and conclude the discussion of the basic virtues of filial piety and fraternal respect.
Human relationships are like spiderwebs, spun from the inside out proceeding in orderly succession with clearly defined levels. The spider at the center of the web is “humaneness,” the places its web reaches are “righteousness,” and the paths it takes are “propriety.” After one has practiced filial piety and fraternal respect toward one’s own parents and siblings, one should focus on one’s uncles and cousins. That is the second level of humaneness, and is in accord with principle. We love and respect our parents and siblings, and our parents love and respect their siblings; our parents love us, and our uncles of course love their own children. Therefore, when we love and respect our cousins, we are empathizing with our uncles, which is to be filial to them. Being filial to our uncles is in turn empathizing with our parents, which is to be filial to our parents. The ancient sayings: “Our paternal uncles are like our own father,” and “When we see our maternal uncles, it’s like seeing our own mother,” express this principle.
Lord Mu of the state of Qin and Lord Wen of Jin were two feudal lords during the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Lord Mu’s wife was the elder sister of Lord Wen. In his youth, Lord Wen fled from his oppressive stepmother Liji and wandered through various states. When he arrived in the state of Qin, Lord Mu’s wife had already passed away. and Lord Mu’s son, the crown prince, really felt that he was seeing his own mother when he saw Lord Wen, his uncle. When Lord Wen was about to leave, the crown prince could hardly bear to let him go; he was filled with yearning. The poem “Wei Yang” in the Book of Odes speaks of Lord Kang of the state of Qin, after assuming the throne, remembering his maternal uncle, Lord Wen. From this one can see how much more virtuous and filial the ancients were. We should quickly return to the virtuous ways of old.
朝 起 早 ， 夜 眠 遲
zhao qi zao ye mian chi
早上 起床 早早地 晚上 睡覺 晚晚地
morning to get up early
night to go to sleep late
In the morning we should get up early; at night we should go to bed late.
老 易 至 ， 惜 此 時
lao yi zhi xi ci shi
年紀老大 容易地 來到 愛惜 這 時候
old age easily to arrive
to treasure this period
Old age will arrive very quickly; we should treasure the time we have left.
天地悠悠，亙古常存，不知何始何終；而人命無常，長者不過百年，亦是千萬中不得其一，更何況夭逝者還大有人在。所謂「莫到老年方學道，孤墳盡是少年人」；墳墓裡躺著的全是死人，卻不一定都是老人。人生天地間，就好比蜉蝣之於老椿，滴水之於大海，哪裡能比量？又哪裡能仗恃目前的青春年少？ While the universe is vast and eternal, with no known beginning or end, human life is so brief. Maybe only one person in a million lives to be a hundred. Many are those who do not live our their natural life spans. There’s a saying, “Don’t wait till you’re old to practice the Way: the lonely graves are mostly those of young people.” Not all the corpses lying in the graves are old people. Humans born into the world are like ephemeral insects on an old tree, like a drop of water in the ocean. How could their life span compare with that of the universe” How can they think that their present youth will last?
古語云﹕「百年三萬六千日，蝴蝶夢中度一春。」若是把今生虛度，等到黃粱夢醒，兩手空空辭世之後，輪迴無期，苦不堪言；又向何生度此身呢？人身非常難得，既有幸今生為人，就該好好珍惜有限時光，努力做一點無限事業，才不枉來了這一遭！若是日日紙醉金迷，或為三餐忙進忙出，那又何異乎草木禽獸？更別提如此愚癡過日，造罪無數，來生的苦報還無窮無已！那麼什麼是無限事業？又如何來開創這無限事業呢？ An old proverb says, “The 36,000 days in a hundred years are no more than a passing spring in a butterfly dream.” If one wastes this life in vain. then when the dream is over, one leaves the world empty-handed and undergoes indescribable suffering in the endless cycle of rebirth. When will one have another chance to liberate oneself? It is extremely difficult to obtain a human body. Since we arc fortunate enough to be humans in this life, we should cherish the limited time we have and work diligently to do something that will last forever. Then our life will not be in vain. If we are merely infatuated with wealth, or busy making a living so we can have three meals a day, how are we different from plants and animals” If we foolishly spend our days creating countless offenses the retribution we suffer in lives to come will have no end. What kind of work can we do that will last forever? How can we go about doing it?
在中國宋朝末年，元兵在元世祖領導下，一路攻城陷鎮，銳不可當。當時識時務的，不是趨炎附勢、忝然無恥地朝事新主子，就是為保身家，不得已棄城投降；稍有氣節的，也都隱名埋姓，幽居鄉野。唯獨一個不怕死的文天祥，偏是知其不可而為之，就做些個「雞鳴不已於風雨」的傻事。 In the final years of the Song Dynasty in China, the Yuan troops under the leadership of Yuan Shizu (the future emperor of the Yuan Dynasty) defeated all the cities and towns in their path: there was no stopping them. Those who saw what was happening either went over to the winning side and shamelessly served the new leader, or else gave up their cities and surrendered in order to preserve their lives and homes. Those who had some sense of honor changed their names and went into seclusion in the countryside. The only one who wasn’t afraid of death was Wen Tianxiang, who did what he knew was impossible, being foolish like a rooster that did not stop crowing even in the storm. 怎麼樣呢？他把家中的錢財都拿出來，組織一支義軍，號召救國衛君。起初倒也有些聲勢，無奈大勢已去，最後宋朝還是完了，他也做了階下囚。元世祖很是愛惜敬重他，勸他投降；但文天祥硬是「富貴不能淫，威武不能屈」，寧死也不降。有名的《正氣歌》就是他在監獄中作的。臨刑前，他更慷慨激昂地說出﹕「讀聖賢書，所學何事？而今而後，庶幾無愧！」 He took all his family savings and used it to organize an army of volunteers to save the country and protect the king. At first the army had some success, but in the end the Song Dynasty still came to an end and he was captured and imprisoned. Out of love and respect for him. Emperor Yuan Shizu exhorted him to surrender. But Wen Tianxiang was “not tempted by wealth and honor, not intimidated by military threats.’ He would rather die than surrender. The well-known “Song of Righteousness” was composed when he was in prison. Right before his execution, he magnanimously and proudly declared, ”What have I learned from reading the books of sages? From today onwards. I have no cause for remorse”‘
我們每個人雖然生來業報不同，能力、願力也不一，但是務必各自發心，精進不懈來自我超越。能力願力小者，至少要獨善其身，不受輪迴；能力願力中者，為社會謀利，為世界造福；能力願力大者，自覺覺他，同超聖地。那麼，我們死時也可以說出﹕「讀聖賢書，所學何事？而今而後，庶幾無愧！」這才真是不虛枉這一生了。這就是無限的事業。要開創無限的事業，又必須具有無限的精神和體魄不可。這無限的精神與體魄，又哪裡得來呢？就必須自小起早眠遲，從灑掃進退的日常小事上來鍛鍊起！ Although we are born with different karmic retributions, capabilities, and resolves, we should certainly be determined to work hard and excel our own limits. Even if our capabilities and resolves are slight, we should at least cultivate ourselves so we can free ourselves from the cycle of rebirth. Those with intermediate capabilities and resolves should work for the good of society and the world. Those with great capabilities should enlighten themselves as well as others, so that all can reach sagehood together. Then when we die we can say. “What have we learned from reading the books of sages? Now I can say that I have no cause for remorse!” Then we can truly say that we have not lived this life in vain. That is the kind of work that lasts forever. To do this kind of work, we need limitless zest and energy. And where does this limitless zest and energy come from” It starts with the habit of getting up early and going to bed late. We have to train ourselves starting from the small matters of daily life, such as household chores and social etiquette.
晨 必 盥 ， 兼 漱 口
chen bi guan jian sou(shu) kou
早晨 一定 用手接水來洗 並且 沖洗 嘴巴
morning must to wash with hands
and also to rinse mouth
In the morning, we first wash faces and brush our teeth.
便 溺 回 ， 輒 淨 手
bian ni hui zhe jing shou
大便 小便 回來 常常 洗乾淨 手
to go to the toilet to return
always to clean hand
After we go to the toilet ，we use water and soap on our hands.
冠 必 正 ， 紐 必 結
guan bi zheng niu bi jie
帽子 一定 戴端正 紐扣 一定 結好
hat must to put on properly
buttons fasteners must to fasten
We should put on our hats with great care, and fasten our buttons and snaps.
襪 與 履 ， 俱 緊 切
wa yu lv ju jin qie
襪子 和 鞋子 都 綁緊 切合
socks and shoes
both be securely bound be fitted
The pull up our socks very neatly, and fasten our shoelaces well.
這一章所講的，諸如洗臉、刷牙、漱口、沐手，等等衛生習慣，以及穿衣、戴帽、繫鞋、著襪，種種衣著要領，都是日常生活中所要注意的細節。別輕看了細節，一個人若能在日用之間，持之以恆地去實行，造次必於是，顛沛必於是，這才是真正有道。 This chapter talks about the habits of good hygiene, such as washing our face, brushing our teeth, rinsing our mouth, and washing our hands. It also discusses the principles of good grooming: how we should wear our clothes, wear hats, tie our shoelaces, and put on socks. These are details we have to pay attention in our daily lives. We shouldn’t take them lightly. If a person can always do these things every day, no matter what kind of difficult situation he might find himself in, he is really practicing the Tao.
美國萬佛聖城的開山祖師宣化上人，不但自己以身作則，又不時苦口婆心地教誨眾生﹕「你要得道，在什麼地方修道呢？就是你一天從早晨起身到晚間，這個經過，你都做得合法，做得很正確的，不做邪僻的事，這就是修道。你若離開日用，另外去找一個道，那就是終身不見道，你始終也找不著的。」 The Ven Master Hua, founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, not only did all these things himself, but also urged everyone else, saying: “You want to attain the Way? Where can you practice the Way? From the moment you get up in the morning till you retire at night, if you do everything properly without violating the rules, you are practicing the Way. But if you ignore the daily routine things and try to search for the Way elsewhere, you will never encounter it in your whole life.”
這就是教我們不要好高騖遠，所謂「道不遠人」，毋須鎮日向外馳求，裝模做樣，須知日用之間就是道之所在，平實就是道。 He was teaching us that we shouldn’t aim high without doing the fundamental work. It is said, “The Way is not far away from people.” We don’t have to spend the whole day seeking the Way outside somewhere, or put on an act. We should know that the Way is right in our daily activities; simplicity is the Way.
若人有很高的名譽地位，或者很豐富的學識財富，看來是儀表堂堂，生活習慣卻一團糟，即使他瞞得過外人，還是瞞不了身邊的人；躲得過他人的眼睛，卻是躲不了自己的業力牽引。 If a person who is famous, important, well-educated, or wealthy looks graceful and dignified, but has messy habits, he might be able to conceal his bad habits from outsiders, but he can’t hide them from people close to him. He might get away from others’ eyes, he can’t escape the power of his own karmic offenses.
人的起心動念，就是善惡業的因；日用之間的舉手投足，就是因的萌芽。維持良好的衛生習慣，不但確保我們的健康，也確保了他人的健康。實行敬謹的衣著要領，不但可以端正我們的心性，更可以鍛鍊我們的耐心和毅力。反之，若是養成了邋遢的習慣、舉止，那麼個人的不名譽事小，實際上已造了罪業的影響大；個人造罪業的影響小，遺禍大眾的罪業大。人怎麼可以等閒輕之呢？ Our every thought is a cause of good or bad karma, and our daily activities are the sprouts of these causes. Developing habits of good hygiene not only makes us healthy, but also protects others’ health. Wearing proper clothes not only helps us to have an upright character, but also trains us to have patience and perseverance. On the contrary, if we develop the habits of being sloppy and messy, our resulting bad reputation is a minor thing, but tile karmic offenses we commit can be very serious. Committing personal karmic offenses is a small matter, but bringing harm to the public is a big offense. How can we take this lightly?
子路原本是個大而化之 、好勇尚義的大老粗，他非常看不起讀書人，總覺得這些人是不事生產，欺世盜名之輩。初見孔子時，故意地穿了一身獵裝，帽上用獵來的山雞毛插得高高的，走起路來一搖三擺；腰上佩劍，又用獵來的野熊皮做了長長的劍套，自以為很神勇。等見了孔子，不覺被孔子的雍雍氣度所折服，就偷偷把山雞毛摘下扔了，隨後換上一身儒服來拜師，願意做個常隨眾，跟著孔老夫子學習詩書禮儀。 Zilu was a tough, brash fellow with a sense of justice. He looked down upon scholars because he thought they were unproductive bums who cheated the society for fame. The first time he went to see Confucius, he purposely wore a hunter’s outfit, his hat decorated with the long feather of a pheasant he had killed. He swaggered as if he were a big shot. The long sword at his hip was covered with the skin of a bear he had trapped. He thought he was very brave. But when he met Confucius, he was naturally subdued by Confucius’ awesome demeanor and quietly removed the feather from his hat.
孔老夫子為他正衣冠，開示他君子之道；經過多年的訓誨調教，子路這塊質而無文的璞玉終於脫穎而出，大放光澤。後來子路在衛國的內亂中被圍攻，力戰至死；因為他帽纓已斷，帽子就歪斜了，臨死，他仍緊緊記得老師的訓誨，掙扎著把帽子重新戴正，因為君子至死都要衣冠端正。 Later on. he changed into scholar’s clothes, bowed to Confucius as his teacher, and followed Confucius constantly in order to study the Book of Odes and the Book of Rites. Confucius adjusted Zilu’s clothes and taught him the way to be a scholar. After years of practicing Confucius’ instructions. Zilu. originally’ a rough man without, learning, finally outshone the others. A few years later. Zilu was attacked from all sides during the civil war in the state of Wei. He fought hard till he as killed. When he was dying, his hat was crooked due to broken straps, but he still remembered his teacher’s instruction and struggled to adjust his hat properly, for a scholar should always be properly dressed.
現在有很多小嬉皮、老嬉皮、故意地頭不梳，臉不洗，身上衣也不扣，腳下鞋也不穿 ，以為那是灑脫；這樣的人，只能說是邋遢、隨便，終其一生沒什麼出息，哪裡配稱灑脫？灑脫是要心無罣礙，念無愛憎，打從內心無所執著於任何人事物，並不是苟且過日。須知不是經過禮教淬鍊出來的灑脫，不算真灑脫。 Nowadays, there are many young and old hippies who intentionally neglect to comb their hair. wash their faces, button up their shirts, and wear shoes, because they think that’s the way to be carefree. Actually they are merely being sloppy and won’t accomplish much of anything in their lives. How can they say they are carefree” Being carefree means being free from desires, love and hatred; not being attached to any person or object. It doesn’t mean goofing off all day long.
切莫小看了這些日常習慣的維持和實踐，君子的品格和毅力就是從這兒培養起來的；唯有具備了君子的品格和毅力，才配談灑脫。 We should know that without the right training in propriety, we cannot truly be carefree. We shouldn’t neglect to maintain our practice of good habits in daily life. that is the only way we can develop a virtuous person’s integrity and resoluteness. Only when we have a virtuous person’s integrity and resoluteness is it possible to be carefree.
置 冠 服 ， 有 定 位
zhi guan fu you ding wei
置放 帽子 衣服 固定的 位子
to place hat clothes
have fixed place
Our hats and all others should be put in their own places.
勿 亂 頓 ， 致 污 穢
wu luan dun zhi wu hui
不要 隨便地 擺放 招致、弄 髒的 醜惡的
do not sloppily to lay
to cause to get dirty to get soiled
They should not be left lying around, they are sure to get wrinkled and soiled.
衣 貴 潔 ， 不 貴 華
yi gui jie bu gui hua
衣服 注重 整潔的 注重 華麗的
clothes to emphasize clean
not to emphasize splendor
We should always make sure our clothing is neat, but not care too much about fashion
上 循 分 ， 下 稱 家
shang xun fen xia cheng jia
往上來說 依照 身分 往下來說 配合，衡量 家境
above (first) to accord with one’s status or position
below (next) to suit, to match the financial condition of a family
What we wear should reflect common sense and not go beyond our budget.
這一章講衣著方面要注意的事情。首先還是強調衣物的擺放要整潔有序，不要隨隨便便，邋邋遢遢的。在有限的存放空間裏，我們如何把四季應用的衣物擺放整齊，而又方便取用，這是一門書本上都學不到的經濟學。 This section discusses the points we need to pay attention to with regard to clothing. First of all, it emphasizes that we should put our clothes away in a neat and orderly fashion, and not be sloppy or messy. Making the most efficient use of limited closet space to organize clothing for the four seasons neatly and yet allowing clothes to be taken out conveniently, is a lesson in economics that isn’t found in any book. 你或者會說﹕「為什麼我們談著道德的培養，卻又牽扯上經濟學呢？」好似注重道德的人，不應該講究經濟，太世俗了！這你就錯了。真正有道者，是珍惜人力物命，十分注重經濟效益的。我們如果能這樣做，一則已延續了衣物的使用壽命；二則可提昇衣物的外觀價值；三則又絕對會節省下每日的更衣時間；這不就是經濟學所強調的經濟效益嗎？那麼一個懂得生活品質的有道之士，又怎能忽略這種經濟效益呢？ “We’re supposed to be talking about cultivation of virtue; what does that have to do with economics?” you might ask, thinking that people who value virtue aren’t supposed to be concerned with such a worldly matter as economics! You’re wrong on that one. People who truly understand the Way will cherish people’s energy and want objects to last long; they are very concerned with economics. If we can practice in this way, then first of all our clothes will last longer, second of all we will look more well-dressed, and thirdly, we will lessen the time it takes to change clothes. Isn’t that the “economic value “that economists are always stressing? How could a person of integrity who appreciates the quality of life disregard economic value in this sense? 有道者，大都有節儉的美德。很多人就又產生一種錯誤的觀念，就把他們的形象局限在衣衫襤褸，不修邊幅，甚至是赤膊跣足，蓬頭垢面可也；這更是大錯特錯了！賢者也有貧富貴賤不同的命運，但是真正到了證聖地步的大聖人，即使再顯貴，也不會驕奢浪費，開了冷氣穿貂皮大衣；再清寒，也不會縐衣髒帽上殿堂。他們一衣一履，都切合自己的身份，也配合場合來穿著，因為這是禮儀，也是戒律。 Since people of moral caliber are usually thrifty, they are often misportrayed as being disheveled and sloppy, and even going around barefoot, with mussed up hair and grimy faces. This is an inaccurate picture. Virtuous people may be rich or poor, noble or common, but if they have reached sage hood, then no matter how rich or noble they may be, they would never be so extravagant and wasteful as to turn on the air-conditioning and wear a fur coat; no matter how destitute they are, they would never go to a formal place with messy clothes or a dirty hat. They always dress fittingly for their own position and for the situation or place they are in; that is the observance of etiquette and precepts.
所謂「貧家淨掃地，貧女淨梳頭；景色雖不豔麗，氣度自然可觀。」這才叫窮得瀟灑！諸如嬉皮妄作灑脫狀，或假道學故示寒酸狀的，莫說不是聖人，連自然忘俗的狂者也稱不上；只能說他們是社會的「剩人」罷了！至於打腫臉充胖子，盡在衣著上費錢費工夫，甚至等而下之，硬在衣著上作怪的「閒人」和「嫌人」呢，實在也犯不著去對他們側目而視，因為他們都是心靈空虛的可憐人，沒有自知之明。 As it’s said, “If a poor household is swept clean and a poor girl combs her hair neatly, then although their appearance is not gorgeous, they will naturally have a pleasing air.” That’s what’s meant by the care freeness of poverty! As for hippies who make a pretense of being free and relaxed, or those hypocrites who deliberately dress in rags, not only are they not sages, they don’t even match up to naturalists who have forgotten the mundane. They can only be called the outcasts of society. As for those who “slap their cheeks so they can pass for plump (affluent) people,” those who spend all their time and money on clothing, or even worse, the leisurely rich or punks who insist on dressing in bizarre styles, there’s no need to be surprised by them. They’re to be pitied because their lives are spiritually empty and they don’t understand themselves.
所以我們要有正知正見，即便在穿衣戴帽上的生活瑣事上，也要嚴謹自持 ，以中道為依歸。所謂「小事不察，大事不明」，過去不知今已知，改過即是聖賢；千萬不要錯拿了「大行不顧細節」或「難得糊塗」作擋箭牌，來給自已做辯護律師。 So we must have proper knowledge and understanding, and even in the trivial matter of clothing, we have to be scrupulous and follow the Middle Way. It’s said, “If we don’t pay attention to small matters, we won’t be clear about the big matters.” Now that we know this, if we can correct our faults, we can be considered sages and worthies. We certainly shouldn’t try to defend ourselves by saying, “In big endeavors, we shouldn’t worry about details,” or “Being muddled is a quality to be cherished.”
中國古代的賢德女子裏，有個「鹿車歸里」的美談。漢朝的鮑宣十分好學，但是家境清貧，他的老師很讚賞他貧賤不移的氣節，不但把女兒桓少君嫁給他，還贈送了婢僕和豐盛的財物以為嫁妝。新婚第二天，新娘子一身錦衣繡服、珠光寶氣地打扮停當，卻發覺新郎板著臉不理她。 Concerning the virtuous daughters of ancient China, there’s a beautiful story called “Returning Home in a Deer Cart.” In the Han Dynasty, there was a diligent student named Bao Xuan who came from a poor family. His teacher admired him for maintaining his resolute integrity despite his poverty and low social class, and gave him his daughter Huan Shaojun to be his wife, as well as servants and a large fortune as a dowry. The day after the wedding, the new wife dressed up in embroidered finery and bedecked herself with glittering jewelry, but to her surprise her husband became sullen and gave her the cold shoulder. 桓少君終究是有教養的淑女，不但不敢發脾氣，還虛心下氣地請教他，自己是否犯了過錯？鮑宣便說﹕「少君生在奢富的家庭，習慣了漂亮的裝扮，可是我們鮑家很窮苦，你這種打扮實在不得體！」桓少君就說﹕「家父因為先生您的道德，才教我來事奉您的起居；既然鮑家的規矩這樣，我當然會遵從。」鮑宣這才歡喜起來﹕「妳能這樣，才是我所希望的。」 Being a refined lady, Shaojun dared not get angry, but humbly asked her husband whether she had done something wrong. Bao Xuan said, “You come from a rich family and are used to wearing fancy clothes, but my family is poor and your attire is not appropriate.” Shaojun said, “Because of your virtue, my father asked me to serve you; I will certainly honor your family’s ways.” Bao Xuan happily said, “I really hoped you would be able to do this.”
於是桓少君馬上遣回所有的婢僕嫁妝，換上了短衣布裙，和鮑宣兩人，牽了鹿車，載著簡單的行李，回到鄉間的鮑家；拜見婆婆後，桓少君取了水桶，就去打水做飯。以後桓少君也真的能謹修婦女的美德，做個稱職的鮑家媳婦，鄉里的人都十分讚歎她。 Shaojun immediately sent back all the servants and dowry and changed into a short jacket and cotton skirt. Then she and Bao Xuan piled their simple possessions on a deer-drawn cart and went to the Baos’ home in the countryside. After paying respects to her mother-in-law, Shaojun took the water pail and went to draw water to do the cooking. Later she proved to be a virtuous wife and worthy daughter-in-law to the Bao family. She earned the praise of all her fellow villagers.
現今的社會裏，處處可以看到很多衣著入時，卻俗豔難耐的人；他們不管自己的身份年齡合不合適，只知盲目追求時尚，這可說是「東施效顰」，醜不自知了！甚至有被物慾所迷的，過份講求衣著，花費往往超出家庭預算；且不論他個人的品味高低，這終究不是好現象。君不見，多少男子為入不敷出鋌而走險，終至家破人亡？多少女子為奢華無度淪落煙花，終至身敗名裂？世間如桓少君的，真是鳳毛麟角，少之又少了！我們能不以為殷鑑嗎？ In today’s society, we see many fashionably dressed and yet terribly vulgar people, who blindly strive to be in style without considering whether their attire is appropriate for their age and position. They are like the ugly lady who tried to imitate the pout of a beautiful lady, and only ended up looking more ugly. Some people are so deluded by their materialistic desires that they outspend their budget and ruin their own lives and families. How many girls have spoiled their reputations and lives because of their extravagant taste in clothing? Women like Huan Shaojun are truly rare. We should certainly take her as our inspiration!
對 飲 食 ， 勿 揀 擇
dui yin shi wu jian ze
對於 飲料 食物 不要 挑剔 選擇
as to drink food
do not be picky be choosy
Do not fuss and complain about tastes when you are given something to eat.
食 適 可 ， 勿 過 則
shi shi ke wu guo ze
飲食 恰好 可以承受的份量 不要 超過 準則
eating just right permissible is allowed
do not to go over a limit or standard
Eat enough so that you become full, but do not take more than you need.
年 方 少 ， 勿 飲 酒
nian fang shao wu yin jiu
年齡 還 年輕的 不要 喝 酒(麻醉品)
age still young
do not to drink wine (intoxicant)
Whatever your age or position, do not drink liquid or take harmful drugs.
飲 酒 醉 ， 最 為 醜
yin jiu zui zui wei chou
喝 酒(麻醉品) 醉醺醺的 是 醜陋；難看
to drink wine (intoxicant) drink
most is become ugly
To get drunk is disgraceful and ugly, and brings you nothing but shame.
這一章講的，是飲食該注意的事項。挑精揀肥、暴飲暴食，不但形象不雅，有礙觀瞻，亦且是貪婪之源，終究會令我們傷身敗命，沉淪苦海。《地藏經》上說﹕地藏菩薩化身千百億，在各處辛苦地教化眾生，若遇飲食無度者，就和他們說說宿殃短命的果報，以期警誡他們；可是眾生難調難服，總是像游魚似的，才救得牠出網，牠又因貪婪而入了網。魚餌之所以能奏效，就因為眾生有貪念；因為貪，也就短視了。所以說眾生愚癡 ，甚可憐憫！ This section discusses what we should pay attention to in our diet. If we choose only the most delicious and rich foods and eat and drink like gluttons, not only does it make us look bad, but our reputations will be ruined by our greed and we will sink in the sea of suffering. The Earth Store Sutra says: “Earth Store Bodhisattva has millions of transformation bodies that arduously teach living beings everywhere. If he sees someone eating and drinking excessively, he will warn them about the retribution of a short life.” However, living beings are very difficult to tame. They are like fish which, after being freed from the net, get entangled again due to greed. Bait is effective because living beings are greedy, and their greed makes them short-sighted. Thus it’s said that living beings are pitiful in their ignorance.
我們教育子弟，無不希望他往好的運途走；可是，什麼才是好的運途呢？高官厚祿？名成利就？婢美妾嬌？或者子孫滿堂？若說是高官厚祿，可是伴君如伴虎，哪一日身首異處時，又有何樂趣可言？若說是名成利就，可是慾心難止，哪一日家敗名裂時，又有何樂趣可言？若說是婢美妾嬌，可是人心好嫉，哪一日閨房生釁時，又有何樂趣可言？若說是子孫滿堂，可是人多口雜，哪一日禍起蕭牆時，又有何樂趣可言？所以不如趁早好好教育子弟有正知正見，小則個人後福無盡，中者家庭平安，大者社會安定，天下太平。而教育子弟，首要戒貪；一念貪，念念貪。 When we educate our children, we want them to walk on the right path. But what is the right path? Is it high official position and a good salary’? Fame and riches? Beautiful maids and charming mistresses? Or many children? You may say it’s high official position and a good salary, but serving the king is like accompanying a tiger; if one day you are sentenced to death, what fun is there in that? You may say it’s being famous and wealthy, but it’s difficult to stop your desires; if your reputation is totally ruined one day, what fun will that be? You may want to enjoy beautiful maids and charming mistresses, but it’s human nature to be jealous; when they fight amongst themselves in the bed-room, how will that be enjoyable? You may want to have many children, but when there are many people there are bound to be disagreements; if there’s a tragedy in the family, what is the fun? Thus it’s better to teach children the right ideas from the beginning. Then they themselves will enjoy endless blessings and their families will be harmonious. Ultimately, the society will be stable and the world will be at peace. The first thing to teach children is not to be greedy. A single thought of greed leads to endless greed.
古人說﹕「食者天也；色者性也。」又說﹕「民以食為天。」足見飲食本是眾生最原始的慾望，所以說，貪食正是貪財貪色之本；豈能以為是飲食小事，率而輕忽了它呢！至於飲酒，本來小飲兩杯，既不犯殺生，也不致損傷健康，或危害他人，應該沒什麼關係吧？問題是世上能自制的人太少了！ There’s an old saying: “Food is all-important; lust is part of human nature.” Another saying goes; “To people, food is all-important.” This goes to show that eating and drinking are basic human desires. Thus there’s another saying: “Greed for wealth and sex stems from greed for food.” How can we overlook the matters of eating and drinking and think they are unimportant? As for drinking alcohol, one might think that having a couple of drinks won’t matter, since it doesn’t violate the precept against killing, damage the health, or hurt anyone else. The problem is, very few people are able to control themselves!
有個修行人自己住著，一天晚上，正在小飲兩杯之際，忽然跑進來一隻小雞；他一看，這可不正是下酒菜？於是也顧不了犯殺戒、盜戒，就把雞殺來吃了。愈吃，酒也愈灌得多；酒愈灌得多，也愈性起。鄰家少婦跑來問雞，他順口扯謊﹕「沒看見！」醉眼矇矓之際，看那女人長得也不錯，就又把她強姦了！年輕子弟血氣未剛者，戒之在色；血氣方剛者，戒之在鬥；而酒能亂性，血氣難伏，一但失去自制，就殺、盜、邪淫、妄語，什麼都做得出來了！ Once there was a cultivator who lived by himself .One night when he has having a couple of drinks, a chicken wandered in. Seeing it, he thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some chicken to go with the wine?” Forgetting about the precepts against killing and stealing, he slaughtered and cooked the chicken. Then he ate it and had some more wine. The more he drank, the more excited he got. When his neighbor, a young woman, came looking for her chicken, he lied, “I haven’t seen it.” Seeing the woman through his blurred drunkenness, he found her quite attractive and raped her. Young people are not yet physically mature and should refrain from indulging in lust. When they are in the prime of life, they should refrain from fighting. Intoxicants confuse the nature, making it difficult to subdue energy. Once a person loses self-control, he is liable to do anything, including killing, stealing, acting promiscuously, and lying.
本來佛當初制戒時，飲酒並不在戒中。後來，一位修習有神通的弟子，因為勇伏毒龍，居士很感謝地獻酒供養；他一高興，竟飲酒失度，最後醉臥街頭，有如爛泥。佛看平日這麼一位威武的行者，酒後竟是如此脆弱不堪，醜態百出，從此才把這不飲酒，與不殺、不盜、不邪淫、不妄語，同列在基本五戒之中。 When the Buddha first set up the precepts, he didn’t prohibit intoxicants. Later on, a disciple who had spiritual powers bravely tamed a poisonous dragon. When the grateful laypeople offered him some liquor, he drank it joyfully, lost control of himself, and lay about in the streets in a drunken stupor, like a piece of trash. Seeing that awe-some cultivator become so weak and disgraceful when he was drunk, the Buddha added no intoxicants to the other precepts of no killing, no stealing, no lust, and no lying, to make the five basic precepts.
想想看﹕一位修到那麼高境界的出世者，尚且逃不過酒的考驗，我們凡夫俗子，又怎敢自命不凡地說﹕「沒關係！我就喝兩口罷了！」 Think about it: If such an accomplished cultivator failed the test of intoxicants, how could we ordinary people brag: “I’ll only take a couple of sips; there’s no harm in that.”
步 從 容 ， 立 端 正
bu cong rong li duan zheng
步伐 悠閒自在的樣子 站立 端正的 挺直的
pace composed and natural
the way one stand upright proper
Your walk should be easy and graceful, stand with your back tall and straight.
揖 深 圓 ， 拜 恭 敬
yi shen yuan bai gong jing
拱手作禮(問訊) 深沉穩重的 圓潤優雅的 跪拜 (頂禮) 恭順的 謹慎的
bow deep full
full bow compliant cautious
Your half-bows should be deep and full, and your full bows be made with respect.
勿 踐 閾 ， 勿 跛 倚
wu jian yu wu bo yi
不要 踩、踏 門檻 不要 單腳站著 倚靠
do not to step on the door ledge
do not on one foot to lean on
Watch your step as you enter a doorway, don’t slouch over and shuffle along on one foot.
勿 箕 踞 ， 勿 搖 髀
wu ji ju wu yao bi
不要 像畚箕一樣 坐著 不要 動 臀骨
do not to sit in a fan to squat
do not to swing hipbone
Do not squat with your legs spread apart when you sit; do not wriggle and squirm when you walk.
自小，父母師長都告誡我們要「站有站相，坐有坐相」；那麼，怎樣才是站相？怎樣才是坐相呢？關於這行住坐臥，古人形容得很妙，即是﹕ Ever since we were little, we were told by our parents, teachers, and elders to “stand and sit properly.” Well, what’s the proper way to stand and sit? The ancients had a marvelous verse to describe how we should walk, stand, sit, and recline :
行如風，臥如弓。 Stand like a pine. Sit like a bell.
Walk like a breeze. Recline like a bow.
我們若能站得像松樹一樣挺拔，坐得像一座大鐘那樣四平八穩，自然英姿爽然，氣概非凡。可是很多人不論坐著、站著，就喜歡懶散地東倚西靠，或者彎腰駝背，尤其喜歡斜斜伸出一足，單單靠另一腳站著來支撐全身重量；躺著時，又是四腳朝天寫「大」字，以為這樣才是舒服。其實，莫說這樣的姿態醜陋而沒精神，久了，脊柱都還會變形。不正確的姿勢，不但難看，而且會導致百病叢生。 If we can stand as tall and erect as a pine tree and sit as firmly and steadily as a great bell, then we’ll have a natural air of dignity and vivacity, which gives us an extraordinary presence. However, most people, whether they are sitting or walking, love to lazily lean to one side, slouch over and hunch their backs, or stand with their weight supported on one leg so they can extend one foot out sideways. When they lie down, they sprawl with their four limbs out in the shape of the Chinese character for “big” (大). People think these are comfortable positions, but actually, not only do they look unpleasant, they end up with deformities of the spine and buttocks. Incorrect posture is not only unsightly, but is the cause of all kinds of disorders.
現代人生活緊張，工作壓力大，頭痛眼花、腰痠背疼已是慣性疾病；止痛藥常吃了也就不見效，更加上一層苦惱。後來研究報告證明了﹕一切毛病源於不健康的脊椎骨上；而不健康的脊椎骨，又源於不正確的躺臥坐立，或取物搬貨的姿勢。於是乎，腳底按摩或指壓等物理治療就大行其道，脊骨神經科醫生也十分吃香。可是許多人發現，效果不是沒有，症狀總是時好時壞，不能根治；那就是因為自己沒有從根本下手，把不正確的姿勢改正過來之故。所以，行住坐臥的姿勢若不正確，不但沒有威儀，也損害健康。 Due to the stress and work pressures of modem life, headaches, dizzy spells, and backaches have become habitual ailments; the pain killers people take soon lose their effectiveness and only add to the suffering. Later, research indicated that all these ailments stemmed from an unhealthy spine, and that an unhealthy spine was due to incorrect posture in reclining, sitting, standing, or picking up or carrying things. That’s when foot massage and finger pressure became very popular, and spinal nerve specialists were widely consulted. However, many people soon discovered that while the results were not nil, their condition would sometimes improve and sometimes regress; they hadn’t cured the root of the problem, because they hadn’t corrected their bad posture. Therefore. if one’s posture in walking, standing, sitting, and reclining is not proper. not only will one have bad comportment, but one’s health will suffer.
但是，即便坐立挺直，若是動作生硬或莽撞，也不能稱得上彬彬君子。這兩句「揖深圓，拜恭敬」，說得真好！「深」，表示行禮的誠敬程度，並不是隨便拱拱手，卯卯腰就算的；「圓」，形容行禮的優雅姿態，絕不是做作或粗魯的。 However, if one only sits and stands erect, yet one’s actions are clumsy and rough, one cannot be considered a refined person. The next two lines really put it well: Your half-bows should be deep and full, and your full bows be made with respect The word “deep” refers to the depth of our sincerity when we bow; bowing is more than just putting our hands together and bending at the waist. “Full” refers to the elegance of our bowing; it should neither be affected nor rough.
古人以「玉樹臨風」來描繪身量修偉英挺，舉止溫文有禮的人，真是再貼切也不過了！一個人若走起路來不疾不徐，行禮進退又自然合度，那就猶如清風徐來，舉手投足間，自見清涼意態。好一個玉樹臨風輕揚，多麼儒雅！又多麼自在！這才是真正的「酷」！至於時下不少青少年，非但言語間蔑視規矩，進退間亦且十分輕浮散漫，這真是大大地錯解了「酷」的真義！ The ancients used the phrase of “a jade tree in the breeze” to describe a person who is tall, stately, and handsome, and whose movements are gentle and gracious. Truly an apt description! Someone who is neither hasty nor slow when he walks and whose gestures are always naturally just right, like a gentle breeze, will give people a cool and refreshing feeling, like a jade tree waving gently in the breeze-how refined and carefree! This is what it really means to be “cool.” Today many young people not only hold the rules in contempt. but are very casual and sloppy in their manners; this is a total misconception of what “coolness” really is!
孔子老年時，有 一回去看他童年一起長大的老朋友原壤。這原壤究竟是怎麼樣的一個人呢？他自小就是個四六不明（「四六」，就是隱喻父母；因為中國字「父」是四劃，「母」是六劃）的小混混，大了又不事生產，弄到母親死了也沒法好好安葬。孔子去幫他修治棺具，他看孔子的手修長白皙，居然想入非非，忘了母喪，大唱其小調來。這樣的人，自然一生也沒什麼出息，到老更沒人愛理。可是孔子還是眷戀故情，偶爾去看看他。 When Confucius was advanced in years, he once went to visit an old friend, Yuan Rang, with whom he had grown up. What kind of person was Yuan Rang? Ever since he was young, he was a rascal who had never listened to his parents; when he grew up he didn’t do anything to make a living, and so when his mother died he could not afford to give her a good funeral. Confucius went to help him prepare things for the funeral. When he noticed Confucius’ hands, which were white and delicate, he started thinking of improper things and humming a frivolous tune, totally forgetting about his mother’s death. Being that kind of person, he of course had not achieved anything worthwhile in his life, and was not loved by anyone in his old age. Yet Confucius didn’t forget his old friend and would visit him occasionally. 那回，原壤就懶散地叉開兩條腿，好像承接垃圾的畚箕似的，蹲坐在門口等孔子。孔子真的生氣了，就用手杖敲敲原壤的腳脛，罵他道﹕「你啊！你！小時不知孝順父母，友愛兄弟；大了，也沒什麼值得人稱說的作為；到老還是這麼副賊德性。你活得這麼久幹什麼呀？你！簡直就是個老不修！」像孔子這樣有情有義的人，都忍不住要罵人罵得這麼難聽，可見箕踞而坐，是說多難看就有多難看了！ That time, Yuan Rang had lazily stuck out his two legs and looked like a live dustpan waiting for some trash as he squatted by the door waiting for Confucius. This made Confucius really angry, and he knocked Yuan Rang on his shins with his staff, scolding him, “You! When you were little you didn’t know how to be filial to your parents or kind to your siblings. When you grew up, you didn’t do anything praiseworthy. In your old age, you’re still as rascally as ever! What’s the point of living so long? Have you no shame at all?” Even Confucius, as kind and affectionate as he was, couldn’t keep from giving him such a round scolding, which goes to show how ugly it is to sit with one’s legs spread apart.
箕踞而坐不好看，扭腰擺臀的，也不見得好看；有些女孩子卻以為這樣很吸引人，總故意學模特兒在伸展台上走路的樣子，卻不知自己活像老母鴨或火雞似的。唉！愚癡使人目盲，真可憐憫！ Squatting with one’s legs apart doesn’t look good, and neither does wriggling and squirming when one walks. Some girls think moving their hips back and forth as they walk makes them look seductive, so they are always trying to imitate the way a model walks on stage. They don’t realize that they really look like ducks and turkeys! How pitiful these people are, blinded by their ignorance!
緩 揭 簾 ， 勿 有 聲
huan jie lian wu you sheng
慢慢地 揭開 門簾 不要 發出 聲響
slowly to lift door curtains
do not make sound
When opening or closing a door, do it slowly, without making too much noise.
寬 轉 彎 ， 勿 觸 稜
kuan zhuan wan wu chu leng
有餘的 轉移 彎曲處 不要 碰到 稜角
wildly to turn corner
do not to bump into angle, edge
When going around a corner, make a wind turn and don’t bump into sharp edges.
執 虛 器 ， 如 執 盈
zhi xu qi ru zhi ying
拿 空的 器皿 好像 拿 滿的器皿
to carry empty container
as if to carry a full container
You should carry an empty container just as carefully as one that is full.
入 虛 室 ， 如 有 人
ru xu shi ru you ren
進入 空的 房間 好像
to enter empty room
as if have people
And enter a room that is empty, just as cautiously as one in which there are people.
前一節提到行住坐臥四大威儀，說要「行如風」；我們把它再衍申一下，這個「行」，還不只是「行走」，應該包括一切諸如開關門戶，進出轉彎，甚至取物執事的種種行動。一個人的動作，不但反映出他的個性，也反映了他的道德和教育水準。 The previous section mentioned the four modes of deportment—walking, standing, sitting, and reclining–and said one should “walk like a breeze. ” We can extend this a bit because the word xing (行) not only means walking, but also includes various motions such as opening and closing doors and windows, entering and exiting, turning corners, picking things up, handling things, and so forth. The way a person moves is a reflection not only of his character, but also of his ethical standards and his education.
古時候，進出之處如無門戶，至少會有簾子來分隔內外。簾子的質地種類不一，或者布簾，或者紗簾、竹簾，又或者珠簾、水晶簾、翡翠簾等。總之，都不如木門、鐵門來得堅實。如果粗粗魯魯地一掀一甩，可能不小心波及站在簾邊的人或動物，或驚擾到室內的人，簾子也容易脫落破壞。掀簾、放簾的動作輕緩，不但不會讓聲響干擾他人，也可延長簾子的使用壽命。 In ancient times, in entrances where there were no doors, there would be a curtain to separate the inside from the outside. The curtains were made of various materials, such; as cloth, gauze, bamboo, beads, crystal, and jade. In general, they were not as hard and solid as wooden doors or iron gates. If you roughly whisk the curtain aside, you might disturb the people or animals on the other side or startle those inside the room. The curtain will also fall apart more easily. If you lift the curtain and let it down slowly and gently, you won’t make any sound that would disturb other people, and the curtain will also last longer.
現代人已少有使用門簾的了，但各種質地的門戶雖然較為堅實，相對的，其撞擊所發出的音響和反震力也更大，造成的損傷也更嚴重。因此，開關的動作更要輕緩，以免釀成意外，製造噪音，耗損門戶。 Nowadays door curtains are seldom used, and doors made of various materials are more solid. However, the noise is also louder when you knock against them, and the injury is more serious. For those reasons, we should open and close them gently and slowly to avoid causing accidents, making a lot of noise, and damaging the doors. 手輕輕扶著把手來開關門的，是謹慎而負責的人；用力推門就走，任由門在身後自動合上而發出巨響的，是膽識有餘，不計後果的人，但也往往是不負責任或不太考慮別人感覺的人；握緊把手，慢慢推開門，然後緊緊關上門的，是認真負責，但有時不免畏怯或神經質的人；開門時用力扭轉把手，卻會忘了關門的，是有心負責，卻無力收拾殘局的人。從人開關門戶的動作，真的可以觀察一個人的個性和品行，從而衡量出他將來的成就。 One who gently grasps the doorknob to open and close the door is a careful and responsible person. One who barges through a door and lets it slam shut by itself is someone who has plenty of daring and knowledge, but who doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions. Or he might be an irresponsible individual or a person who isn’t very considerate of others’ feelings. Someone who grasps the doorknob tightly, very slowly opens the door, and then closes it tightly behind him is a diligent and responsible person who is sometimes a bit timid or nervous. Someone who forcefully turns the doorknob to open the door, but then forgets to close it, is one who has good intentions but isn’t able to finish the jobs he starts. From the way a person opens a door, you can tell what his character and personality are like and judge what his future accomplishments might be. 同樣地，在穿越堂屋或轉彎時，不是撞倒這，就是碰翻那，甚至弄傷了自己，總見出這個人莽撞不慎重的個性；而小心翼翼地緊貼著桌椅牆壁走，沒給自己留個空間，又顯得這個人過分的拘執。動作上的「寬」、「緩」，和前一節所強調的「深」、「圓」，正是展現君子自然自在，不卑不亢的瀟灑風度。 Similarly, if a person habitually bumps into things, knocks things over, or even hurts himself when he walks through a room or turns a corner, it reveals a rash and incautious personality .If someone carefully walks along the edges of the tables, chairs, and walls without leaving much room for himself, this shows that he is a little too uptight. The qualities of one’s movements being slow and spacious, like the qualities of being deep and full mentioned in the previous section, illustrate the natural ease and carefree air of a great person who is neither arrogant nor self-demeaning.
當我們執持器物時，不管東西的盈虛輕重，總以兩手端捧在胸前為佳；這樣，不但是一種禮貌，還能培養好「慎始慎終」的習慣，更可以訓練出目不斜視，專心一意的態度。至於進入空屋或獨處虛室之時，還能如同有他人在側，沒有一絲一毫的隨便和放逸，這更是自我淬鍊之所在。古聖人十分強調「誠意正心」的內修工夫，認為應該從「慎獨」著手，曾子說一個人即使是獨處時，也應該嚴謹自持，就像有「十目所視，十手所指」一樣；這是描述君子秉心正氣，端正不阿的獨特品格。 When we carry a container, regardless of whether it is empty or full, light or heavy, the best way is to hold it with both hands in front of our chest. This is the respectful way, and it also trains us to be careful from beginning to end and to focus our attention and not be glancing here and there. When we go into an empty room or stay alone in one, we should act the same as when there are people around; we shouldn’t be the least bit casual or lax; this is the essence of self-cultivation. The ancient sages put great emphasis on the inner cultivation of “making the will sincere and the mind proper,” which they thought should begin with being cautious when one is alone. Zeng Zi [a disciple of Confucius] said that when a person is alone, he should act as prudently as if there were ten eyes watching him and ten hands pointing at him. This describes the unique character of a superior person who maintains right thoughts and is proper at all times.
君子為什麼能做到這樣呢？因為他沒有妄起我法二執；我法二執，就是眾惡的根本。那我法二執又是什麼？說穿了，其實就是意念不誠而已；意念不誠，也就是有個自私心和名利心。人如沒有自私心，哪裏會產生我執？若沒有名利心，更有何法執可言？就因為生出這二種根本的執著，於是乎各種勾心鬥角的是非爭端都跟著衍發了！所以才說，我法二執是眾惡的根本。 Why is a superior person able to be like this? Because he doesn’t have the two attachments to self and dharmas. The attachments to self and dharn1as are the root of all evil. What are these two attachments? Actually, they are just a result of a lack of sincerity .When one is insincere, one is selfish and seeks after fame and profit. If a person is unselfish, how could he have the attachment to self? If he doesn’t seek fame and profit, what attachment to dharmas could there be? Because of these two fundamental attachments, all manner of fighting, scheming, gossip, and arguments arise. That’s why these two attachments to self and dharmas are the source of all evil. 一個人的意念誠不誠，往往流露於舉手投足之際。在人前，他或者警覺性高，還會加以掩飾；獨處時，就難免鬆懈而漏了底，明眼人當然看得出來。所以《大學》上才說﹕「誠於中，形於外，故君子必慎其獨也。」 The degree of a person’s sincerity can be seen in his ordinary gestures. In front of others, he may be very alert and cover up his true thoughts, but when alone he is likely to relax and let his real self show through. Of course an intelligent person can see through his phoniness. Thus the Great Learning says, “When there is sincerity within, it manifests in one’s external appearance; hence the superior person must be cautious when he is alone.”
那麼，君子又為什麼要做到這樣呢？《大學》上說﹕「富潤屋，德潤身，心廣體胖。」想想看﹕人生在世，富貴壽考，都只如海上浮漚，長久幾何？不少生前金玉滿堂，卻諸善莫作，眾惡奉行的人，死後不但遺臭萬年，甚至痛失人身，永劫沉淪地獄、餓鬼、畜生三惡道；反之，以道德嚴身，諸惡莫作，眾善奉行者，生前是坦坦蕩蕩，身後也流芳百世，更有超昇三界、永享極樂的。各位都是聰明的，與其享一時之樂，而身後累世挨罵受苦，何不趁此生嚴持戒律，早修無上道呢？ Why does the superior person want to be like this? The Great Learning says, “Riches enhance the household, while virtue enhances one’s self, so that one has a broad mind and a healthy body.” Think about it: All the riches, honor, and longevity that we enjoy in this world are like mere bubbles in the sea–how long do they last? There are many people who are incredibly rich, but who do no good deeds whatsoever and only indulge in all manner of evil. After they die, not only does their notoriety live on, but they may lose their human body and fall into the three evil paths of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals forever. Conversely, those who conduct themselves ethically, avoiding all evil and practicing many good deeds, enjoy a smooth and carefree life, leave behind a good name, and are able to transcend the Triple Realm and enjoy eternal happiness. All of you are intelligent people. Compared to the prospect of enjoying momentary pleasure and then enduring scoldings and sufferings for many lifetimes afterwards, wouldn’t it be better to seriously uphold the precepts in this very life and quickly cultivate the unsurpassed Path?
明朝的大將軍戚繼光還沒做官時，跟一位朋友進京應試。到了京城，肚子餓了，兩人就在路邊攤子吃飯。吃完，賣飯的不小心，一個銅錢滾落到地上；那位朋友趕緊用腳把銅錢踩住，等賣飯的不注意時，再把錢撿起。他自以為神不知鬼不覺，沒想到被一位散步的過路人瞧見了，而那人正是此次考試的監考官。到了考試那天，那位朋友交卷時，監考官就把他的名字暗地記下；結果戚繼光考取，他卻落了榜。按理，他的文章比戚繼光好，應該考取；可是那位監考官卻說﹕「賣飯的一個銅錢他都想要，如果讓他作了官，他還能不貪污嗎？」由此看來，人怎能不誠乎其中，而慎乎其獨呢？ In the Ming Dynasty, there was a great general named Jiguang Qi. Before he became an official, he went with a friend to the capital to take the civil examination. When they reached the capital they felt rather hungry, so they stopped by a roadside stand to get something to eat. After they had finished their meal, the food vendor accidentally dropped a coin on the ground. Qi’ s friend quickly stepped on the coin and then picked it up when the vendor wasn’t looking. He thought no one, not even the ghosts, would know what he’d done, but actually his act had been observed by a passerby who happened to be the examination proctor. On the day of the examination, when Qi’s friend handed in his paper, the proctor silently noted his name. Later it turned out that Jiguang Qi passed the exam, while his friend did not. Actually, Qi’ s friend should have passed, for his essay was better than Jiguang Qi’s. But the proctor had said, “He even wanted that food vendor’s one little coin. If we allow him to become an official, how could he not be corrupt’？” Hearing this story, how can we not maintain an inner attitude of sincerity and not be cautious whenever we are alone?
事 勿 忙 ， 忙 多 錯
shi wu mang mang duo cuo
做事 不要 匆忙地 匆忙地 大多 出差錯
to do work do not hurriedly
hurriedly usually mistakes
There is no need to be in a hurry. If you rush you will make a mistake.
勿 畏 難 ， 勿 輕 略
wu wei nan wu qing lue
不要 害怕 困難的事 不要 輕忽 簡易小事
do not to fear difficulty
do not to look upon as unimportant small or easy jobs
Do not be afraid of what is hard, and not casually dismiss what’s easy.
鬥 鬧 場 ， 絕 毋 近
dou nao chang jue wu jin
打鬥 喧嘩的 場所 禁止 不要 接近
fighting troublesome, disturbing places
to stop, to cut off do not to go near
Never go near rowdy places or places where people are fighting.
邪 僻 事 ， 絕 毋 問
xie pi shi jue wu wen
邪惡不正的 標新立異的 事情 絕對 不要 過問
deviant, improper depraved, lowly things
to stop, to cut off do not to ask about
Never ask about deviant things. Stay away from all that’s improper.
聖人告誡我們，無論做任何事情，「毋欲速；欲速則不達。」我們做任何事，只要預先有個全盤計劃，如何進行也有個架構，對於時間的掌控留有餘裕；如此，謀定而後動，即使中間有什麼變卦，也不致於慌了手腳。反之，若是衝動有餘，謀略不足，則臨變就慌，慌了便急，愈急則愈亂，愈亂又愈錯，事情想成就都難。 The Sages have warned us that, no matter what we are doing, “Don’t rush, because if you rush you won’t reach your destination.” For any endeavor, if we plan things well before we start, proceed in a systematic way, and give ourselves plenty of time to complete each step, then even if unforeseen circumstances arise, we will not be thrown into confusion. On the other hand, if we are overly impulsive and don’t plan things out in advance, we will panic at any unexpected change and become anxious. The more anxious we get, the more confused we become, and the more confused we become, the more mistakes we make. As a result, it’s difficult to accomplish anything.
所謂「忙中多錯」，君不見經常闖紅燈，出車禍的，都是那種做事沒計劃，又不給自己預留時間、空間的人？所以說性躁心粗的人，總是寡德多敗，一事無成；心平氣和的，自然得道多助，百褔雲集。做人做事是這樣，求學修道也是這樣，總要以平常心對待，按部就班，才能真正有得於心，成就是急不來的。 It is said, “If you rush, you tend to make more mistakes.” Have you noticed that the people who run red lights and get into car accidents are the kind who never think things out before they act or leave enough time and space for themselves? People who are rash and careless tend to lack virtue, and never succeed at anything. People who are calm and composed naturally obtain plenty of help and blessings. This applies to human conduct and work, as well as to studying and cultivation. We should always have an ordinary attitude and do things methodically. Then we will have some true attainment in our mind. Success cannot be rushed.
日本有個劍道名家，看看兒子不成材，就把他趕出門，斷絕了父子關係。這年輕人深受刺激，發憤要學成一流的劍術，就不辭辛苦地爬上深山，想拜當時的名劍手武藏學藝；可是武藏也認為他不能有所成就。年輕人不死心，堅持地問﹕「假使我努力學習，需要多少年才能成為一名劍師？」武藏微微領首﹕「也許十年吧！」年輕人又問﹕「家父年歲已高，我一定得早點學成。假如我加倍努力學習，需要多少年才能學成？」武藏搖搖頭﹕「那得要三十年囉！」年輕人著急地又問﹕「我不惜任何勞苦，一定要在最短的時間內學成。」武藏不禁大笑﹕「你有這種心態，那恐怕要花七十年才能學成了！」。 Once there was an expert swordsman in Japan who saw that his son was a failure and threw him out of the house, disinheriting him. As a result, the boy developed a burning aspiration to become a first-rate swordsman. He went to all kinds of trouble and climbed deep into the mountains to bow to Wuzang, a famous swordsman of the time, hoping to train under him. But Wuzang felt that he was a hopeless case. The boy didn’t give up hope, but persisted in asking, “If I work hard, how many years would it take me to become a great swordsman?” Wuzang shook his head slightly. Maybe ten years.” The boy said, “My father is already old. I must succeed sooner. If double my efforts, how long will it take me?” Wuzang shook his head and said, “Then it’ll take thirty years. ” The boy anxiously asked, “I’m willing to take any kind of hardship, but I must finish my training in the shortest time possible. ” Wuzang couldn’t help laughing and said, ‘With your attitude, it might take you seventy years before you succeed.”
這故事是要我們保持平常心，持續進行，功夫夠了，自然水到渠成，急功近利是不能有所成就的；不在於教人不用努力，慢慢來就可以了。所謂平常心，也就是一個在日用間，不須特別造作的心；也就是一個不畏難也不輕易的心。這世間人對世間事，總是怯懦的人畏怕困難的事，而自負的人輕忽簡略的事；要恆持平常心，確是大不易。 In doing work, we should maintain an ordinary state of mind and make constant progress. When we have put in enough effort, we will naturally succeed. If we rush in our work and try to make a quick profit, we won’t have any success. This does not mean we should take it easy and not work hard. An ordinary state of mind means the state that our mind is in as we go. about our daily affairs. There is nothing contrived or artificial about it. It is a state of not fearing difficulty and not scorning easy things. For this world, timid people are afraid of hard things, and people with a sense of self- importance tend to overlook simple things. To constantly maintain an ordinary state of mind is not at all easy.
常看到很多年輕孩子，總是自以為什麼都會，不論是教他做功課，或讓他做工作，都表現得馬虎不屑，認為那太沒有挑戰性了，因此不想學，不想做；到最後一事無成，就怨天尤人，一副懷才不遇的樣子。殊不知「他山之石可攻錯 」，一洞若通，洞洞皆通。徒具聰明或學歷，沒有基層的實務經驗，最後流於眼高手低，什麼也沒學到，什麼也沒做成。孔子自己就說過，他並非天生多才多智，只不過是從小家庭貧賤，他必須做很多瑣事罷了！所以想啟發孩子的智慧，要從小就鍛鍊孩子把日常小事都做好。 I often see young people who think they know everything. If asked to do their homework or to do some other task, they casually shrug it off as not challenging enough, so they don’t want to study or do the work. fu the end they don’t accomplish anything, and then they complain and blame others, acting as if no one recognized their talent. They don’t understand that “Advice from others may help one overcome one’s defects.” If they master one field of knowledge, they will naturally understand all fields. If they possess talents or academic degrees but lack the foundation of hands-on experience, their situation is that of having great aims but poor abilities; they end up learning nothing and accomplishing nothing. Confucius said that he was not born with much talent and wisdom; it was just that he had to do lots of menial chores because his family was very poor. In order to develop children’s wisdom, we should start by training children to do a good job in the trivial affairs of daily life. 俗云﹕「近朱者赤，近墨者黑。」環境和交往，對人一生的影響真是大！孟母三遷，就為著給小孩換個好的環境。年輕孩子不但好奇心強，模倣得也很快，若是涉足是非地，輕者遭池魚之殃，重者恐怕就會同流合污，再也無法全身而退了。靠近染坊，掉進醬缸，難道還想保持清白？ An old saying goes, “He who draws near vermilion becomes red; he who draws near ink becomes black.” A person’s surroundings can make a great difference! Mencius’ mother moved three times only because she wanted to provide a proper environment for her son to grow up in. Young children are curious about everything and quickly learn to imitate what they see. If they are in a bad environment, they might get into trouble or even follow the bad examples of others and never be able to get themselves out of there. When one gets near a dyer’s shop or falls into a vat of dye, how can one expect to stay clean and white?
孔子說﹕「非禮勿視，非禮勿聽，非禮勿言，非禮勿動。」禮者理也，非禮就是指一切不合乎道理的事情；尤其對那些個殘暴悖亂，或者稀奇古怪，驚世駭俗的事情，我們更須塞耳杜口。為什麼呢？因為如今的時代魔強法弱，修羅道大盛，修行貪神通的人亦比比皆是；若是和這些人物太接近，或是知道人家秘密太多，遲早會著魔或惹禍上身，切記切記啊！ Confucius said, “Don’t look at improper things; don’t listen to improper things; don’t say improper things; and don’t do improper things.” “Proper” means in accord with principle. “Improper things” refers to things that do not accord with principle. In particular, when we encounter cruel, violent, weird, or scary things, we should plug our ears and zip our lips. Why is that? Because in this age when demons are strong and the Dharma is weak, the ways of asuras are popular and cultivators who crave spiritual powers are everywhere. If you get too close to these people or learn too much about their secrets, you will become possessed or get into trouble sooner or later, Be careful!
將 入 門 ， 問 誰 存
jiang ru men wen shui cun
將要 進入 詢問 在 (那裡)
be about to to enter door
to ask who in there
When you are going to enter a room, first knock to make sure it’s permitted.
將 上 堂 ， 聲 必 揚
jiang shang tang sheng bi yang
將要 登，進入 廳堂 聲音 一定 提高
be about to to enter a hall or meeting room
sound should be to arise
Where you are joining a gathering of people, let them all know you are there.
人 問 誰 ， 對 以 名
ren wen shui dui yi ming
別人 詢問 是誰 回答 用 姓名
someone to ask who is it?
to reply with, to use name
If someone should ask who you are, you should answer by giving your name
吾 與 我 ， 不 分 明
wu yu wo bu fen ming
我 和 清晰的 明白的
me and I
is not distinguished clear
If you only respond, it is me, you are not giving a proper reply. .
我們一般的禮貌，在即將進入他人房間、廳堂等處，還會想到先問一聲「有人在否」，或者敲敲門；但是在自己家裡，就往往忘了這樣做。其實，人最覺放心之處，常常是最易惹出禍端之處。即使是在自家廳堂或一己的房間，只要同個屋頂下還有第二個人存在，進入之際先發聲相詢，或是出聲示警，譬如加重腳步或輕咳兩聲，總是好的；若是在辦公的處所，進出或經過他人辦公室時，更應謹記這點。為什麼呢？因為萬一裡面真的有人，就可避免驚嚇到那個人，這是一種禮貌；不僅如此，也可以保證他人隱私，甚而保護住自己的身心性命。 Before entering a room or a hall, it’s common courtesy to ask: “Is anyone there?” or to knock on the door. However, we usually forget to do this at home. In fact, wherever we feel most comfortable is where we’re most liable to get in trouble. Even if it’s our own living room or bedroom, as long as there are other people in the house, it’s better to ask or make a warning sound–with heavy footsteps or light coughing–before entering. This is especially important when entering or passing others’ offices at work, to avoid scaring anyone who happens to be inside. It’s a basic courtesy. It’s also a way to protect others’ privacy and our own minds and lives.
所謂「知人隱私者，禍必先及之」，如果他人在屋子裡所說所做的，是不可以或不願意他人看見、知道的事情，被你冒冒失失地闖進來瞧見、聽到，事態輕者，彼此感覺尷尬，嚴重者，自己就有危險了！古今中外，因不小心撞見他人隱私，或無意間聽到他人秘密，以至被誣賴陷害，小者丟財去職，大者家破人亡，甚者全家遭殃的，真是大有人在。能不戒慎嗎？ There’s a saying: “Those who know others’ secrets are sure to get into trouble.” If you carelessly rush in and discover people saying or doing things they don’t want others to know about, you’ll both be embarrassed and your life might even be in danger . People who accidentally intrude on others’ privacy or overhear secrets often get framed or slandered. In minor cases, they may lose their jobs and fortune; in major cases, they may get killed and bring ruin and misfortune upon their whole family. This happens all the time, so we’d better be careful.
戰國時代的孟子，是個把儒學傳揚光大的哲人，後世尊他為「亞聖」，以示他是大成至聖先師孔子以來的第二人。孟子婚後，有一次自外回家，也沒敲門就入房，他的妻子正巧在換衣服，來不及穿好；孟子氣沖沖地掉頭就走，向母親說媳婦不懂禮，要把她休掉。 Mencius, a philosopher who propagated the teachings of Confucius during the Warring States Period, is honored as the Lesser Sage, for he was second to the Greatest Sage and Teacher, Confucius. After getting married, Mencius returned home one day and walked into the bedroom without knocking. His wife happened to be changing clothes and had no time to get dressed properly. Mencius was furious and walked out right away. He complained to his mother that her daughter-in-law had no propriety and said he wanted to divorce her.
所謂休掉，在古代的男權社會裡，是一種極不平等的單向離婚，只能由男方提出，簽名就算數。女方毫無辯駁餘地，只能帶著隨身衣物回娘家；而娘家人又往往引以為恥，被休的婦女大都含怨和淚度其餘生，或是自盡。當然，男人也不是隨便可以休妻的，必須是妻子犯了重大的敗德行為，即所謂的「七出之罪」；只不過它常常被有些挑剔的惡婆婆或喜新厭舊的丈夫利用，加以「莫須有」之名，而造成無數悲劇。 Divorce was an extremely unfair custom in the patriarchal society of ancient China. Only the husband could initiate divorce proceedings, and his signature was enough to make the divorce official. The wife had no right to protest; all she could do was pack up her personal belongings and return to her parents’ home. What was worse, her relatives were usually ashamed of her. Most divorced women bore deep grudges for the rest of their lives and some even committed suicide. Of course, a man could not casually divorce his wife, but only when she had committed serious licentious acts known as the Seven Divorce Offenses. Unfortunately, these were often misused by a picky mother-in-law or when the husband loved another woman. By charging the wife with these offenses, they caused numerous tragedies.
孟子當然不是這種人，他只是根據那個時代對婦德的標準，認為妻子不知禮。幸好他有個賢明的母親，詳細問明原因，就反問他﹕「你進屋前有沒有先問 一聲呢？」孟子答沒有。孟母於是責備他﹕「《書經》上說，將進門時，要問誰在裏面；要入廳堂時，要高聲說話；進房間時，視線要下垂。這就是說不要趁人不備時，去找人家的過錯。你既沒敲門，她自然不知道你要進去；今天的情形，不懂禮的是你自己呀！」孟子聽了非常慚愧，急忙向妻子道歉。這故事的背景及那些古早的婦德標準我們暫不予置評，單就事論事，以孟子之賢，尚且險些因此不慎而釀成家庭悲劇，何況是我們一般的人？ Of course, Mencius was not such a bad man. He simply thought that according to the standards of women’s virtue of the time, his wife had been ill-mannered. Fortunately he had a wise mother who questioned him in detail: “Did you ask before yon went into the bedroom?” Mencius said he hadn’t. She then admonished him, “The Book of History teaches us that we should ask, ‘Who’s there?’ before going into a room. We should also speak in a loud voice before entering a hall. When we step into a room, we should keep our gaze downcast to avoid finding others’ faults when they aren’t prepared. Since you didn’t knock, of course she didn’t know you were entering. You were the one who was impolite!’ Hearing this, Mencius felt very ashamed and immediately went to apologize to his wife. For now we won’t discuss the background of this story or the ancient standards for women’s virtue. This story was told to illustrate that even a man as worthy as Mencius nearly caused a family tragedy due to his carelessness; how much more liable arc we ordinary people to make such mistakes?
此外，敲門、按電鈴，或者打電話時，也應該先自己報名號；若對方先問起，也要把自己姓氏名號說清楚；常見有些人只是萬分親熱地答應﹕「是我呀！還記得我嗎？」或者是故作俏皮地說﹕「猜猜我是誰？」唉！這才真正是「忘了我是誰」了！你以為自己是個什麼特殊人物啊？要是人家想不出或猜不著你是誰，豈非自討沒趣？ In addition, when we knock at a door, ring the doorbell, or make a phone call, we should give our own name. If the other party asks first, we should also clearly tell that person our name. Quite often, people reply in a very familiar manner: “It’s me！ Remember me？” Or they respond with a wisecrack: “Guess who？” This is really “forgetting who one is”! So you think you’re someone special? If that person can’t figure out who are you, aren’t you just asking for trouble?
談到自己報名號或署名，這也都是有規矩的。舉例說吧！若是打電話或寫信給老師，除非是常在跟前的入室弟子，否則總要連名帶姓報上；若不是應屆生，還得報上自己是某某年次某級某班的學生，否則桃李滿天下的老師如何知道你是誰呢？對於朋友、同事或上司，除非是熟得不能再熟的，否則也要連名帶姓報上，甚至還要報出工作單位。對於父母及同姓尊長，要先稱呼對方，再自報名或小字，不用道姓；道姓則不但見外，且貽笑大方。對於異姓外戚，要先稱呼對方，再自報正名；若久不見面或較疏遠的，不但要報姓，還要提示出自己的父母祖先。 When you introduce yourself and give your name, there are certain rules to follow. Here are a few examples. When you call or write to your teacher, you should give both your first and last names unless you are a student on very familiar terms with him/her. If you are not a graduating student, you should give your grade and class. Otherwise, how can a teacher who has so many students possibly know who you are? When addressing friends, colleagues, or your boss, you should also give your full name and even your department, unless you are a very close friend. When you meet parents and elder relatives with the same surname, you can first greet them and then give your first name or nickname without the surname. If you say your surname to them, it sounds too formal and you’ll get laughed at. When addressing relatives of different surnames, first greet them, then say your full name. If you have not seen them for a long time, you should say your surname and mention your parents and grandparents as well.
對於晚輩親戚，自稱稱謂即可；對於下屬、學生，則在頭銜上還要加姓，以示區分，不必道名，這是比較傳統式的；現代人喜歡民主自由，不愛這許多拘束，不論長晚輩或上下屬之間，只互相稱名，而不尊稱其姓，更不加頭銜，不過對親長，還是以加上尊敬的稱謂為得體。若是在規模龐大的公司，對於屬下，尊稱其姓，可以顯出自己的身份和教養；對於非直屬的上司，更以尊稱其姓為妙，以免被「炒魷魚（解雇）」。總之，時代雖變，禮不可缺廢。人而無禮，猶樹之無皮；無禮則無體，其於禽獸何異？ To relatives of a younger generation, you may simply give the title by which they should call you. To subordinates or students, you should give your title and surname without the first name. These are some of the more traditional manners of addressing people. People nowadays prefer to be more free and dislike being tied down by conventions. Elders and young people as well as bosses and subordinates usually call each other by first name without saying the surname and title. However, it is proper to address elder family members using the titles of respect. If you work in a large company, it is more fitting that you call your subordinates by their surnames to show your status and education. And it’s better to respectfully address your superiors by their surnames to avoid getting fired. In general, the times may change, but propriety cannot be abolished. People without a sense of propriety are like trees without bark. Without propriety we’d have no essence, and being this way, how would we be different from animals?
用 人 物 ， 需 明 求
yong ren wu xu ming qiu
使用 別人的 物品 必須 明白地 請求
using people’s things
must clearly to request, to ask
If you use someone else’s belongings ,first be sure that you ask for permission.
倘 不 問 ， 即 為 偷
tang bu wen ji wei tou
如果 請問 就 是 偷竊
if do not to ask for
then to become stealing
If you do not get the owner’s permission, then stealing is what you have done.
借 人 物 ， 及 時 還
jie ren wu ji shi huan
借用 別人的 物品 到 時候 歸還
borrow people’s things
to catch, to reach due time to return
If you must borrow something from another, make sure you return it on time.
人 借 物 ， 有 勿 慳
ren jie wu you wu qian
別人 借用 物品 不要 吝惜的
people to borrow things
have do not be stingy
If someone asks you for something on loan, and you have it do not be stingy.
自守要廉潔，予人要慷慨，這是古之明訓；慷慨仁慈者，「施恩不望報，與人不追悔。」 We should be uncompromising with ourselves and generous with others; this is an ancient teaching of wisdom. A generous and kind person is one who “does favors for people without expecting any reward, and gives things to others without ever regretting it.”
但是慷慨，必須以廉潔為基礎，如果不是自已的東西，絕不可假公濟私，借花獻佛；廉潔又必須以慷慨為作用，否則就顯得刻薄慳吝，像《史記 》和《儒林外史》裡所嘲諷的那些廉吏、酷吏一樣，令人憎惡。 However, generosity has be to based upon honesty. If something does not belong to us, we can’t take it for our personal use or borrow it to make an offering to the Buddha. Honesty needs to be applied with generosity; otherwise we will be mean and stingy like those detestably self-righteous and cruel officials criticized in the Historical Records and the Chronicles of Chinese Scholars.
總之，就借貸雙方的「取」、「與」事物上，要做到「一芥不以與人，一芥不以取諸人」；凡不屬於自己的，就是一枚小小芥菜子，都不敢苟且隨便。那麼取、與之際，怎樣才能不苟且隨便呢？其實只不過是個「清楚明白」罷了！借方在借的時候，借什麼？借多久？都要說得明明白白，不可順手牽羊，以惡小而為之。還的時候，是否完整？是否如期？都要做到清清楚楚，不可含糊籠統、以善小而不為。 In general, whether we are borrowing or loaning things, we should “not casually give away even a mustard seed, and not casually take even a mustard seed.” If something does not belong to us, even if it’s just a tiny mustard seed, we cannot carelessly take it or give it away. How can we avoid being careless? By making everything very clear. When we borrow something, we should state clearly what we are borrowing and how long we need to keep it. It’s not acceptable to casually take something and think that petty theft is of no consequence. In returning the item, we should ask ourselves whether we are returning it intact and on time. We should be very clear about this. We can’t be vague and neglect the details.
俗話說﹕「天有不測風雲，人有旦夕禍福。」誰也保證不了自己永遠不須求助告貸於人，所以有時勿慳吝，無時也無須忸怩；借者借得爽快，還者還得如期，不是說「有借有還，再借不難」嗎？就算不再借，我一人的信用，必能增強貸方的信心，而更樂意繼續資助他人，這豈不也是間接助人？ There’s a saying, “The weather is unpredictable; human fortune is changeable.” No one can guarantee that he or she will never ask for help or borrow from others. Therefore, when you have something, don’t be stingy; when you have nothing, don’t be embarrassed. One should borrow things in a straightforward manner and return them by their due date. Isn’t it said: “Return what you have borrowed, and you can borrow again with ease”? Even if you don’t borrow again, your own trustworthiness can reinforce the confidence of the creditor, who will be more willing to lend to others in the future. Isn’t that just indirectly helping others?
而貸方在借出之際，只能借自己的所有物，若自己沒有，須明明白白說沒有，可以指點借方到別處告貸；千萬不要像《論語》中描述的那個魯國人，人家來借醋，他沒有，偏不直說，還去向鄰居調借來給人，打腫臉充胖子。至於借出物收回之際，更要清清楚楚，明明白白地，不可妄加額外利息，或挾恩求索他事。 As lenders, we can lend only our own belongings to others. If we don’t have what someone wants, we should say so clearly and maybe suggest where the person might get help. Don’t act like that person from the state of Lu, described in the Confucian Analects, who pretended to be what he was not. When someone asked to borrow vinegar, he went to borrow some from a neighbor to lend to him instead of frankly saying that he didn’t have any. When things are returned to us, it’s even more important to be very clear and fair. We can’t demand extra interest or try to get the borrower to do something for us in return for our favor.
再就借貸雙方的存心而言，借方受了恩，不可一日或忘，要常存感恩。貸方卻不可時時不忘，要無「能施」、「所施」與「受施者」；也就是財物借出猶如失去，不存收回的心，那麼對方歸還自己時，豈不等於是雙重的獲得？能這樣無罣礙，才會悠然自得，俯仰無愧乎天地。 As for the attitudes that the borrower and lender should have, the borrower should always remember the favor he has received and not forget it for a single day. The lender, on the contrary, should forget about it; he should have no thought of the giver, the receiver, or the thing given. When we lend money or things out, we should think of them as if we had lost them and not expect to get them back. Then when the borrower returns them, we’ll feel as if we have gained a bonus. If we can be without attachment like this, we will always be at ease and will have a clear conscience .
倘若自己既非借方，又做不起貸方，對於他人的急難，則要感同身受，為之奔走推介，以全貸方之德，並成借方之美；若做不到這樣，最低限度，也不該因嫉妒或私怨，去加以扭曲渲染或破壞吧？但是這種人卻是到處可見。若說是「死生有命，富貴在天」，借方終能度過難關，你這麼做，豈不是違天之命，結己之怨？借方若不能度過難關，你這麼做，難道不會有「我不殺伯仁，伯仁因我而死」之悔？不會有「雪上加霜」、「落井下石」之過？自己不能助人，還要破壞他人助人，真是雙重的損失和罪過！所謂「獲罪於天，無所禱也」，人怎好不自求多福呢？ Even if we ourselves are not borrowing anything and cannot afford to be lenders, we still should feel empathy for those in need and try our best to recommend them to a lender. This is a way to help lenders earn merit and help borrowers get what they need. If we aren’t able to do this, at least we shouldn’t twist or exaggerate the facts because of jealousy or personal grudges. Yet people are doing this everywhere. If it’s true that “Life and death are determined by fate; wealth and honor are decreed by destiny,” then if the person in need finally gets through the difficulties, all you’ve done is go against fate and cause the person to hate you. If the person doesn’t survive the crisis, won’t you feel as regretful as the person who said, “I didn’t kill Boren, but Boren’ s death was because of me.” Won’t you be guilty of adding insult to injury and making the situation worse? You can’t help someone yourself, and you want to keep others from helping him. That doubles the harm and the offense! And so it’s said, “When you offend against heaven, there’s no way to pray for mercy.” How can people fail to do merit and create blessings?
關於借貸，在《莊子‧外物篇》裡，有一個很有趣的譬喻。莊子因為不願委屈本性去做官，所以生活常陷窘境。一日，莊子去向監河侯借糧，監河侯滿口答應﹕「行！我即將去收取封邑的田稅，到時再借三百金給你如何？」莊子聽了變了臉色，忿忿地說了個故事來嘲諷這位監河侯﹕「我來的途中，聽到呼喚聲，回頭一看，泥路上車軌碾過留下的小坑窪處，有一條奄奄一息的鮒魚在那兒掙扎。鮒魚要求我拿些水來，好讓牠活下去。我對牠說﹕『行啊！我將到南方去遊說吳王、越王，引發西江的大水來迎候你，可以嗎？』鮒魚變了臉色，忿忿地說﹕『我失去我過慣常的生活環境，沒有安身立命之處。眼下我只要得到一斗一升的水，就可以活命，你卻說出這樣的話，還不如早點到乾魚店裡找我的尸體算了！』」 There’s an interesting analogy for borrowing and lending in Zhuang Zi ‘s Chapter on External Matters. Because Zhuang Zi didn’t want to compromise his principles and work as an official, he was often in poverty .One day, he went to borrow food from the Lord of Jianhe, who agreed right away, “Sure! I’m going to collect the farming tax on my land, and then I’ll lend you three hundred taels of gold. How’s that?” Upon hearing that, Zhuang Zi was furious and told a story making fun of the Lord of Jianhe: “On my way here, I heard someone calling. I looked around and saw a dying fish struggling in a pit made by carts running over the muddy road. The fish begged me to bring some water so it could survive. I told the fish, ‘Sure! Let me go to the South to persuade King Wu and King Yue to release water from the mighty West River to give you a nice treat, alright?’ The fish very angrily retorted, I’ve lost my normal habitat and have no place to live. Now all I want is a dipperful of water to stay alive, yet you say something like that. You might as well go look for my body in the dried fish store soon. “,
這故事的確發人深省。因此有感而寫下這對對聯﹕「濟人當如及時雨，還物須似花信風。」所謂及時雨，就是救急救得及時，草木就不致枯死，施物雖小而福德卻大。所謂花信風，就是言出如山，歸還有期，就像一年二十四個節氣裡，該吹什麼風，開什麼花時，就如期吹什麼風，開什麼花，一點都不耽誤。我們在待人接物上，亦當如是！倘若沒事先問過，這就叫做偷竊。 This story really gives us something to ponder about. Inspired by this story , I wrote a couplet: In helping people, we should be like timely rain. In returning things, we should be like seasonal flowers and winds. Timely rain prevents trees and grasses from withering; that means we should help those in dire need right away. Even though the favors we do may be small, the merit is great. “Like seasonal flowers and winds” means that we should keep our word and return things on time, just as during each of the twenty-four solar terms in a year, certain winds blow and certain flowers bloom. It all happens according to schedule and nothing is delayed. That’s how we should be in dealing with people and things! If you don’t get the owner’s permission, then stealing is what you have done.
This story really gives us something to ponder about. Inspired by this story , I wrote a couplet: In helping people, we should be like timely rain. In returning things, we should be like seasonal flowers and winds. Timely rain prevents trees and grasses from withering; that means we should help those in dire need right away. Even though the favors we do may be small, the merit is great. “Like seasonal flowers and winds” means that we should keep our word and return things on time, just as during each of the twenty-four solar terms in a year, certain winds blow and certain flowers bloom. It all happens according to schedule and nothing is delayed. That’s how we should be in dealing with people and things! If you don’t get the owner’s permission, then stealing is what you have done.
凡 出 言 ， 信 為 先
fan chu yan
xin wei xian
無論什麼 說出口 話
信實 是 首要的
whatever come out words
credibility is first
Whatever it is that we say, we should speak so that others can trust us.
詐 與 妄 ， 奚 可 焉
zha yu wang
xi ke yan
欺騙 和 虛妄不實
哪裡 容許 呢
cheating or trickiness and lying
how to be acceptable this
If we lie or try to fool others, how can we be accepted by them?
Students have asked, “Among the five precepts of no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no taking intoxicants, which precept is the hardest to uphold?” The great majority of people think not killing is the hardest; many people also think not stealing is the hardest. Actually, not lying is even more difficult! Why? Because while most people who live in this society are relatively careful about avoiding major evils such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, and they are also pretty cautious about drugs and alcohol, they overlook the importance of not lying. Thinking that lying doesn’t endanger anyone or cause any harm, they carelessly blurt something out or crack a joke–and end up breaking the precept against lying. However, while we should generally tell the truth, sometimes the overall situation or the real meaning of honesty requires us to tell a white lie. Honesty is judged by one’s underlying motivation. If a doctor, to keep a patient from losing the will to live, tells him that what he has is not cancer, that is not considered a violation of the precepts.
One day, a great political leader in ancient Greece was strolling in the garden, when suddenly a lad covered with blood jumped in from outside. At first he thought it was a burglar , but the lad knelt down before him and beseeched him, “I accidentally killed someone in a fight. Now people are demanding my life. I jumped over the wall to hide from them. Please save me.” Crying as he spoke, the lad bowed down to the ground. Seeing what a pitiful sight he was, the man promised to save him and hid him in the cellar.
A little later, some people carried in a corpse-it was the man’s son. He had saved his son’ s murderer. After thinking about it, he indicated that he didn’t know where the killer was and told the people to take his son’s corpse to be buried. When night fell, he took the lad out of the cellar, gave him a black horse, and said, “I should have turned you over to those people, because the one you killed was my son. But because I’d promised to save you, I couldn’t break my promise. Mount this horse and flee quickly!”
Good and wise advisors! In order to keep his word, that Greek leader lied to save the killer of his own son. You may consider him a fool for having acted that way. However, since his son could not have been brought back to life, what would have been the point of taking another life? Saving the life of a repentant lad-isn’t that equivalent to prolonging his own son’s life? Being able to relinquish personal affections and maintain trustworthiness with a stranger is not something an ordinary man would be able to do. He was such an extraordinary political leader precisely because of his unselfishness and firm integrity. A truly virtuous person acts out of wholehearted sincerity and never asks whether his deeds will bring him any advantage or not.
Therefore the ancient sages of China considered humaneness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness to be five constants- five invariable truths that must be upheld in daily life. Zeng Zi examined himself on three points every day: whether he faithfully conducted his business with others, whether he was trustworthy in his friendships, and whether he reviewed what he had learned. Confucius also said that an untrustworthy person is like two wheels without the axle to lock them in place-how could they support the cart? This shows the importance of honesty.
I remember a worldly proverb: “Never have a thought of harming others, but always be on guard against being harmed by others. ” Another saying goes, “When you meet someone, speak just a little. Don’t pour out your heart to him.” Actually, these are just words of worldly experience. Lying is like smoking opium-it’s addictive. People initially use dishonest words to protect themselves, thinking it won’t hurt anyone; they never expect that it will turn into a habit and they will become so good at telling lies, till finally, to cover up for themselves, they start deceiving people maliciously. It’s like when people carry weapons for self-defense, they end up getting hurt themselves. Haven’t you noticed that people whose death is caused by weapons are usually weapon- carriers themselves? The same principle is found in the saying, “Good swimmers often drown.” We ought to realize that having a totally unsuspecting mind is the greatest defense.
The Vegetable Roots Discourse says, “When you trust others, it shows your own sincerity, When you doubt others, it reveals your own deceptiveness.” How much more is this the case when things are viewed in terms of causes and effects. If you are cheated in this life, it’s because you cheated others in a previous life. You should bear it and be repentant, instead of complaining, blaming others, or seeking revenge, for that would only increase your offenses. As long as you single-mindedly maintain your honesty, your old karma will be eradicated and blessings will naturally come. No matter how naive and straightforward you are, no one will be able to cheat you. This sounds pretty mysterious and inconceivable, but if you have faith, not only will you not doubt it, you will fully accept it and naturally and gradually come to understand and fathom the mystery .The most virtuous people naturally follow this principle. Average people know the benefit and try to follow it. Foolish people doubt what is good and don’t practice it. While we are not the most virtuous people, we don’t want to be fools either, do we?
話 說 多 ， 不 如 少
hua shuo duo
bu ru shao
words to utter a lot
not as good as a little
To talk just a little is better than to chatter non-stop all day long.
為 其 是 ， 勿 佞 巧
wei qi shi
wu ning qiao
只有 那 真實、正確
不要 浮華不實 巧妙的
only it is right
do not flatter, cunning clever
Talk only about what you are sure of. Do not use cunning or flowery words.
苛 薄 語 ， 穢 污 詞
ke bo yu
hui wu ci
尖銳 壓迫 言語
下流 誣衊 詞句
cruel, harsh mean words
dirty false phrases
Do not dirty your mouth with swear words, or slander with false speech.
市 井 氣 ， 切 戒 之
shi jing qi
qie jie zhi
市場 水井 氣息
一定、徹底 戒止 它
market well atmosphere
must, completely to stop it
Be sure to stay away from coarse and vulgar manners.
It is said, “When the mouth opens, one’s energy scatters.” It’s true! Talking a lot can really be exhausting. And so when our parents or teachers earnestly admonish us, instead of being annoyed at their fussing, we should respectfully obey their words. We should realize that they are expending their life-blood and energy to teach us. However, people who exhaust themselves through idle chatter do not deserve our respect. Why not?
You might say, “Some people are just talkative because they cannot keep things to themselves. If they do not cause dissension or say mean things, talking should not be a big offense.” Actually, that is not so. You should know, “When the tongue wags, there is bound to be gossip.” Even if the person did not mean to gossip, his words are spread by word of mouth and float in the air; it is very likely that someone will end up getting upset or hurt, even to the point that a tragedy occurs. How much the worse it is if someone deliberately spreads rumors or speaks profane or false words. Therefore, it is best to avoid talking when possible, and when it is absolutely necessary, speak only the facts and don’t ramble on and on. At all costs, avoid exaggerating or embellishing the truth, for “disasters emerge from the mouth.” Such talk hurts others and is unbeneficial to oneself, so why speak it？
在古早的臺灣民俗故事裡，「白賊七」是個家喻戶曉的小人物。他怎麼叫做白賊七呢？「白賊」，是閩南語「騙子」、「謊話」或「欺騙」的意思。他在大家族排行第七，自小父母雙亡，跟著叔嬸過活。他不但反應敏捷，口才也好極了。見了什麼人，遇著什麼事，他無不唱作俱佳，繪聲繪影地把沒的說成有了，死的也說活轉過來，只可惜都是謊話順口溜，所以才得了這個不雅的外號。若要講他那些令人啼笑皆非的惡作劇 ，可真是三天三夜也說不完。因此村子裡的人見了他 ，莫不敬而遠之，以免成了他捉弄的對象。
In ancient Taiwanese folklore, there is a character named White Thief Seven. How did he get such a name? White Thief is the Taiwanese term meaning a fraud, a lie, or to cheat. He was the seventh child in his family. Orphaned at a young age, he lived with his uncle and aunt. He was both quick-witted and a good talker. No matter whom he met or what the situation was, he was able to tell such a convincing story that he could create something out of nothing and bring the dead back to life. It’s too bad that everything he said was a lie, which is how he got his unflattering nickname. We could spend three days and nights telling his malicious deeds that left people not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and we still would not finish. The village people all kept a respectful distance, so as not to become the objects of his jests.
One evening, yet another family that had been the victim of his practical jokes came to complain to the uncle. The uncle was so furious that he locked “White Thief Seven” in the wood shed without dinner. It was very cold at night, and he was only wearing a single layer of clothing. Hungry and cold, he practiced boxing and jogged around the room until he was breathing hard and sweating profusely. At that moment, his aunt, feeling sorry for him, quietly came to take a look at him. She was amazed to see that he was warm to the point steaming. White Thief Seven said, “Auntie, this is a precious shirt I have here, which keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The gods took pity on me and gave it to me to wear. But don’t tell anyone–it’s a secret!”
The aunt enviously eyed his shirt and offered to trade her own padded jacket with him. White Thief Seven thought for a while, and then took off his shirt with a show of great reluctance, saying, “You have raised me all these years, and now I have really been filial to you!” Then he put on her padded jacket and went into the house for a comfortable snooze, locking the poor aunt in the woodshed to try out his precious shirt. The next morning, the uncle opened the woodshed to find the frail aunt frozen to death. Insane with fury, he yanked White Thief Seven from his cozy nest, shoved him into a burlap sack, tied it shut tightly, and carried it to the river bank, where he threw it into the river.
But either his strength was insufficient or he did not throw the sack far enough, or White Thief Seven was fated to live, for the sack was snagged by some branches and did not sink. White Thief Seven loosened the rope, slipped out of the bag, and swam to shore. Dragging the bag, he took the back roads and appeared in the path of his uncle, who was on his way home. The uncle was scared out his wits, thinking it was a ghost. White Thief Seven said, “I sat in the precious bag and went to the Dragon Palace to play for a while. I would still be there now, except that I came back because I missed you!” He went onto describe how magnificent the Dragon Palace was, with its exotic delicacies. The uncle enviously begged, “I’m nearly in the grave, and I’ve never even seen the Dragon Palace. Can you let me go once?” With feigned reluctance, White Thief Seven agreed.
They both went to the river bank, and the uncle impatiently jumped into the sack first. White Thief Seven then added a big stone, tied up the bag tightly, and threw the bag into the deep part of the river. Then he went home to enjoy himself on his uncle’s family estate. White Thief Seven later did so many wicked deeds that he is said to have been the target of every arrow. He died in a brutal way, and after death his soul probably went to the Unintermittent Hells to eternally suffer having his tongue ripped out and being drenched with urine and excrement. Think it over﹕ Is this not a case of banning others as well as oneself?
Therefore, one should teach children strictly and insist on honesty. Never let them roam through the streets, where they pick up slippery ways of talking and learn the manners of vagabonds. When their minor misdeeds add up to the point that a major crime or major harm is done, it will be impossible to rectify the situation. When you want to discipline children and can no longer do it, not only will the children’s lives be ruined, but the family will be broken, and it will be too late for regret.
見 未 真 ， 勿 輕 言
jian wei zhen
wu qing yan
所看到的 還沒 清楚
不要 輕易、隨便 說
saw not yet clearly
do not casually, lightly to talk about
If you have not seen something quite clearly, do not speak of it as if you know.
知 未 的 ， 勿 輕 傳
zhi wei di
wu qing chuan
所知道的 還沒 真確
不要 輕易、隨便 宣傳
to know not yet actually
do not casually, lightly to pass it around
If you are not sure about what exactly happened, do not spread rumors around.
事 非 宜 ， 勿 輕 諾
shi fei yi
wu qing nuo
事情 如果不是 合理的
不要 輕易、隨便 答應
affairs if not as it should be
do not casually, lightly to agree, to promise
When you know something is wrong, then do not agree to take part.
茍 輕 諾 ， 進 退 錯
gou qing nuo
jin tui cuo
如果 輕易、隨便 答應
前進 後退 犯錯
if casually, lightly to agree, to promise
going forward going backward to make mistakes
舉止動作 (all actions)
If you make promises lightly, you’ll find yourself in a dilemma.
The ancients had a saying, “One word can cause the nation to prosper; one word can cause it to perish.” This shows the importance of being careful in our speech. There are many stories about the honesty of George Washington, who led the Americans in the War of Independence and became the first U.S. President. The most well－known one is about George Washington and the cherry tree. People from different nations probably heard this story in their childhood. After his death, a notebook that he kept in 1745 was discovered in his former home in a farming village in Virginia.
In that notebook, Washington had copied by hand some 110 of the Rules of Civility in Conversation Amongst Men. These rules of etiquette reveal that the young people of the 18th century received a strong moral education. Even today, the majority of the rules are still applicable in modern etiquette. Why did 14-year-old Washington copy those rules? They probably served as a standard for his own conduct and speech. No wonder he became a leader of such fine character and social skill! It is unfortunate that our sense of kindness has worn thin and moral values have declined, and the development of character is no longer emphasized in the family or at school. Even the moral caliber of our leaders is no longer important. How sad!
One of the rules of civility concerns cautious speech: “Do not get involved in passing any news that is not true. When you pass on something that you heard, you should not report who said it. Don’t try to discover secrets.” The meaning here is exactly the same as that of this section. They both tell us to be cautious and truthful in what we say, and not casually spread news that may not be true. What a shame that most people treat this casually and do not examine themselves until a calamity happens. Even then, they may still be muddled and not realize that the calamity came from their own tongue-wagging!
Among the rules of civility that Washington copied, another one says, “Do not accept any task that you are unable to perform, but carefully keep your promises.” This is telling us to take our promises seriously. However, many people do not know what being “serious” really means. For example, if they had a valuable gem, they would not casually display it except in a suitable place or in the presence of trustworthy people. Promises are much more valuable than gems, yet people are often too casual. They seldom consider whether the person is reliable, whether the place is suitable, or whether what they are doing is proper.
They hastily make promises without carefully considering these things, and afterwards, they usually regret it. When that happens, they may abruptly break their promise; such people of course are not serious about their promises. Even if one forces oneself to carry out the promise in order to keep one’s word, one still cannot be considered “serious” about one’s promises. Why? Because one was too casual in making the promise! One did not consider the possible consequences, which might be severe enough to ruin oneself, one’s family, or the country. Before making the promise, you failed to consider the consequences; then you insist on holding to it, thereby causing irreparable resentment. One who makes promises in this way does not understand how to make them seriously; it would be better not to keep one’s promises.
That is why Confucius said, “One who is trustworthy is close to right conduct, and can carry out his words.” Right conduct refers to what is suitable and proper. Such a person will jump into hot water or step into fire without regret, if that is what is required. Since Ji Bu of the Han Dynasty never failed to keep his word, people praised him, saying, “one promise from him is worth a thousand pieces of gold.” In the time of Confucius, that Great Sage and teacher, the state of Zhu was returned to the State of Lu merely on the promise of his disciple Zi Lu, without even a contract needing to be signed. These examples from the past are truly worth following. To sum up, we should be careful in making promises and faithful in carrying them out. Then, our promises can be considered serious.
When Confucius was traveling around the feudal states, he visited the State of Wei three times. The third time, before he had arrived at the capital, he accidentally came upon the Gonshu–a general of Wei, leading his troops through its drills in preparation for a revolt against Wei. Gongshu told his mounted troops to surround Confucius and his followers, hoping to convince him to support him. But this would have gone against Confucius’ loyalty to his ruler; how could Confucius agree? Having failed in his attempt, Gongshu, out of respect for Confucius and unwilling to earn the reputation of banning a worthy, asked only that Confucius swear that he would not go to the State of Wei; then he would let them pass. The disciples were very nervous. If Confucius agreed, he would be going against his principles. If he did not, they would lose their lives and no one would be able to inform the State of Wei and save them from the impending threat.
As it turned out, Confucius calmly agreed. But as soon as the troops were gone, he immediately instructed his disciples to turn around and drive quickly to the State of Wei. The disciples were in doubt: “How can he break his promise?” But Confucius, the one who always emphasized honesty, said, “Of course you don’t have to follow a promise that you were forced into making.” Confucius’ ability to recognize the situation was a rare quality, even among the ancient Chinese sages.
Mencius, the Second Sage, honored him as “The Sage of knowing the Time.” Confucius himself said, “Yan Hui is more faithful than I ” Then why was Yan Hui the student and Confucius the teacher? Confucius said, “Yan Hui is very faithful, but does not realize that sometimes, true faithfulness consists in not carrying out inappropriate promises.” And so, while we should practice morality, we should not fail to judge the situation and engage in foolish loyalty, foolish filial devotion, petty trustworthiness, or petty righteousness. To make those mistakes is not the true Middle Way.
見 人 善 ， 即 思 齊
jian ren shan
ji si qi
看到 他人的 優點
就、立即 想 看齊、效法
seeing others good points
immediately to think about being the same
When we see good points of others, we should want to become just like them.
縱 去 遠 ， 以 漸 躋
zong qu yuan
yi jian ji
因此 慢慢 升上
though to be distant far ahead
be means of gradually to go up to a higher level
Though we are far behind them now, with perseverance one day we’ll catch up.
見 人 惡 ， 即 內 省
jian ren e
ji nei xing
看到 他人的 過錯
就、立即 向內的 反省、檢討
seeing others faults
then, immediately inwardly to examine
When we notice bad habits in others, we should reflect upon ourselves.
有 則 改 ， 無 加 警
you ze gai
wu jia jing
如有 就、立即 改正
如沒有 更加 警惕
if have then, immediately to correct
if none even more to be alert
If we have the same faults, then we should correct them.
If not, we should never let them arise.
The ideas in this section come from a quote of Confucius found in the Liren Chapter in tile Analects: “When you see worthy ones, strive to equal them. When you see those who are not worthy, reflect upon yourself.” This section goes further to say that if one has faults, one should correct them. Confucius was someone who was able to learn from whomever he was with. He continued learning into his old age. He often said, “Among a group of three, there is bound to be someone worth learning from.” If anyone was better than him in any skill, he would seek instruction and learn from that person. Those who are inferior to one can also serve as mirrors in which one can look for faults in oneself, so they also deserve to be called teachers.
For example, in the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Buddha says that although his jealous cousin Devadatta tried time and again to hurt and kill him, he was really helping the Buddha to go forward in his cultivation and accomplish Buddhahood. And it is primarily because of this merit that Devadatta will also become a Buddha in the future. Regardless of how good or bad people are and how well or poorly they treat us, as long as we have the attitude that we should emulate worthy ones and change our own faults, they can all be teachers to help us accomplish the Way.
The Venerable Master Hua, founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, regarded the Dharma Realm as a huge school in which everyone is a teacher and knowledge is everywhere. He said, “All people are my teachers, and I am everyone’s teacher. I always teach myself, so I am also my own constant teacher.” He even vowed to take across people who slandered him so that they would accomplish Buddhahood before he did. The Venerable Master often spoke about the practice of repentance and stressed that we should not be jealous of talented people, but should bravely change our own faults. He earnestly remonstrated with his disciples, often quoting the phrase from the Analects, “If people told Zilu about his faults, he was delighted”; and from the Mencius, “When Yu heard good words, he would bow.” If any of his disciples were jealous or obstructive, the Master would sternly chastise them.
Li Shiming, the Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, was a ruler of rare wisdom. Although there have been other emperors skilled in both literary and military arts, such as Emperor Wu of Han dynasty and Emperor Gaozong of Qing, they all had the fault of arrogance and so most of their ministers were flatterers. Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty alone allowed his officials to speak freely and easily accepted criticism. Thus, he had many ministers who dared to say what they thought was wrong. The most famous of these was Minister Wei Zheng. Wei Zheng was an advisor of the late Crown Prince Jiancheng of the Emperor Taizu and had advised the late Crown Prince to get rid of Li Shiming — the Crown Prince’s younger brother–as soon as possible because his merits were too overpowering and outshone the Crown Prince. But the Crown Prince didn’t employ him and consequently lost his own life in the coup of Xunwu Gate. Li Shiming subsequently became the Crown Prince and before long was crowned as emperor. Later when Li Shiming asked him about this event, Wei Zeng wasn’t the least bit apologetic and said matter-of-factly, “Had he listened to me, your Majesty would not be on the throne today.” In other words he didn’t think that his idea had been wrong. What was wrong was that Jiancheng, the former Crown Prince, had not listened to him.
Emperor Taizong fully appreciated Wei Zeng’s obstinate adherence to what he thought was good, and not only didn’t punish him, but promoted him to an official position. Wei Zeng also admired Taizong’s broadmindedness, and if the emperor ever said or did anything inappropriate, he would frankly tell him. The emperor also humbly accepted the criticism. Emperor Taizong was such a wise ruler because he not only recognized and employed worthy people, he also learned from them and became worthy himself. He was not like many emperors, generals, and ministers who lacked talent and knowledge themselves, didn’t know how to employ others’ abilities, and regarded those of talent with malicious jealousy, thus ruining themselves, their families, and the nation. Emperor Taizong was truly a worthy ruler endowed with both talent and wisdom.
We should always be open to learning. If you are not up to others, you should use your time well and apply effort in learning so that you make great strides and even surpass others. Don’t waste your precious time and energy being jealous of others. Actually it’s very foolish to be jealous. If you are jealous, you are just acknowledging your inferiority to others and you’ll never be able to catch up to them. Why should you have so little self-confidence？
凡 道 字 ， 重 且 舒
fan dao zi
zhong qie shu
凡是 說 話
穩重 而且 舒長和緩
whenever to say words
to be dignified and at a leisure pace
When you speak you should say the words clearly with a dignified manner and at a leisurely pace.
勿 急 疾 ， 勿 模 糊
wu ji ji
wu mo hu
不要 急促 匆忙
不要 不清楚 含混夾雜
do not in a hurry quickly
do not blurry muddled
Do not rush through your sentences or make ambiguous statements.
彼 說 長 ， 此 說 短
bi shuo chang
ci shuo duan
that one to talk about long points
this one to talk about short points
That person talks about others’ good points and this person speaks about others’ faults.
不 關 己 ， 莫 閒 管
bu guan ji
mo xian guan
不要 多餘 過問、插手
not concerning oneself
do not in a meddlesome to get involved
If something is none of your business, it is best not to get involved.
If you want to maintain good relations with people, not only do you have to be sincere, you also have to be tactful. What does tact consist of? We can discuss it in terms of the tone of voice and the attitude of speaking.
The first verse says that no matter what you are saying, you should speak with a dignified manner and at a leisurely pace. That is, your manner when speaking should be earnest and genial. Another explanation is that you should use correct emphasis and pronounce clearly. The next verse says that you should not rush through your sentences, which corresponds to being earnest and genial. Nor should you mumble or garble your words, which corresponds to speaking with correct emphasis and pronouncing clearly.
From the way a person speaks, one can immediately determine the way he was brought up. From his tone of voice, one can detect whether he is in a good mood or a bad one, and whether he is tense or relaxed. Those skilled in physiognomy can also read a person’s disposition and fate from hearing his voice.
During the Spring and Autumn Period in China, Zi Wen, the prime minister of the State of Chu, was renowned for his virtue. When his younger brother, General Zi Liang, had his son Yue Jiao, Minister Ziwen went to visit the newborn baby. Before entering the room, he heard the baby cry, raised his brows, and after seeing the baby, said to General Zi Liang, “You must not raise this boy. He has the looks of a bear or tiger, and his voice sounds like a jackal’s howl. He is cruel and vicious. If you raise him, he will bring disgrace to our Ruo Ao clan. He has the wild, ambitious heart of a wolf. He’s a man-eating wolf. How can you raise him?” When Zi Liang did not agree with him, Zi Wen became very worried. When he was old and near death, he summoned his kinsmen and told them, “If Yue Jiao ever comes to power, you must quickly move away to avoid calamity.” He couldn’t help but weep as he said, “The ancestors of Ruo Ao may not have any descendants left to worship them!”
After Zi Wen died, his son Dou Ban inherited his position as minister. Later when Yue Jiao inherited his father’s position as general, he plotted with his subordinate, Bai Ying, to murder Dou Ban and usurp the minister’s position for himself, making Bai Ying the general. Shortly afterwards Yue Jiao became envious of Baiying’s power, so he dispatched the Ruo Ao clan’s troops to ambush and kill him. Then he went on and attacked the King of Chu. The King of Chu wanted to reach a settlement and offered three of his princes as hostage, but Yue Jiao did not agree, so he had no choice but to go to battle with the troops of Ruo Ao. Although Yue Jiao was bold and skilled in archery, when both of the arrows he shot at the King of Chu missed their target, his troops lost confidence. The King of Chu took advantage of their hesitation and urged his own troops on, saying, “When our ancestral king conquered the country, he obtained three divine arrows. Yue Jiao stole two of them, but now he’s lost them and we can counter-attack.” In a burst of bravado, they annihilated the Ruoao clan.
It just so happened that one of Zi Wen’s grandsons had been away in the State of Qi on a diplomatic mission. On his way home he heard about the fighting, and not listening to the friendly advice of others, he returned home to report on his mission, then tied himself up and went to the head judge to receive his punishment. The King of Chu, thinking of Zi Wen’s merit in governing the State of Chu, said, “If a person as worthy as Zi Wen had no descendants left, how could later generations be inspired to goodness?” Thereupon the King granted him amnesty and allowed him to retain his position. In that way, the Ruo Ao clan was not completely wiped out.
At the end of the Western Han dynasty, Wang Mang usurped the throne and made himself King. Before he became a traitor, he had always put on a pretense of humility and refinement, and he fooled many people. Once, a street hawker was invited into palace to perform. Someone asked him, “What do you think of Wang Mang’s physiognomy?” The hawker said, “He has the eyes of a horned owl, the mouth of a tiger, and the voice of a jackal. Not only will he eat men, he will be murdered in the end!” As it turned out, after Wang Mang killed the Han Emperor and usurped the throne, he was eventually defeated by Emperor Guangwu, who established what became the Eastern Han Dynasty.
These two examples show that a person’s voice is a true reflection of his disposition. However, one’s inborn disposition may be altered by education and training. One’s voice will naturally change along with one’s disposition, and one’s fate will also be different! Therefore, we must not overlook the method of changing fate through training children in their manner of speech and tone of voice and think that it is not important.
When U.S. President George Washington was a youth, one of the rules he copied from “Rules of Civility in Conversation Amongst Men” was, “Don’t listen to other people’s affairs out of curiosity; don’t approach people who are engaged in private conversation.” In other words, don’t mind other people’s business. Don’t be an eavesdropper, or you might stir up more gossip and even put your life in danger. You shouldn’t listen to gossip, much less utter it.
The “Rules of Civility in Conversation Amongst Men” also says, “Don’t gossip about others behind their backs, because that’s unfair.” If you don’t know the truth of the matter and you speak recklessly, not only are you being unfair to those involved, you are also degrading yourself. In his travels, Confucius once came upon a bronze statue in front of a temple. The statue’s mouth had been gagged three times around with rope, and on its back were carved these words: “This is a man from ancient times who was cautious in speech.” Confucius praised this sight endlessly, and from that incident came the expression, “to be gagged thrice,” meaning to be scrupulous in speech. Wise people guard their words like gold, which is a very sensible way to act.
When I serve my parents in filial piety,
I vow that living beings.
Will serve the Buddhas skillfully.
And protect and nourish everything.
–Pure Conduct Chapter, Flower Adornment Sutra
In China there is a Classic of Filial Piety, which says, “As for filial piety, it is the heavenly mandate, the earthly morality, and the practice of the people.” Filial piety is an excellent virtue that has traditionally been honored in China. It is the basis for our life and our relationship with the world, as well as a guideline and standard for governing the nation and world. How did the sage emperors of old influence the people and win their loyalty? It wasn’t through the use of harsh punishments or laws, nor through the use of a strong army or generous rewards; rather, it was by means of virtue and reason that they caused the people naturally to be kind and affectionate, so that there was no resentment between the superior and the subordinate, or between the older and younger generations. Hence Confucius said, “Filial piety is the basis of all virtuous deeds; it is also the source from which all teachings emerge.”
IMPARTIAL FILIAL PIETY
The Classic of Filial Piety and the Confucian Analects are the most well-known texts of Confucian philosophy. In ancient times, of the more than three thousand offenses meriting the five severe punishments (tattooing, cutting off the nose, cutting off the feet, castration, and capital punishment), none was considered worse than being unfilial. During the reign of Emperor Ren of the Song Dynasty, the Classic of Filial Piety became one of the texts covered in the imperial examination. As a result, the Song Dynasty had a particularly large number of loyal ministers. In the He Tuo Chapter of the Northern History’s Annals of Scholars, it is recorded, “Su Wei once said to the Emperor: My late father often admonished me, saying: The study of the Classic of Filial Piety alone provides a sufficient basis for one’s life and for the managing of the nation’s affairs; what need is there to study additional texts?”‘ During the reigns of Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty and Emperor Xuan of the Tang Dynasty, those emperors even wrote commentaries on the Classic of Filial Piety and instructed all the people to recite and practice it. From this we can see what importance the Chinese place upon filial piety.
What is considered being respectful to our parents? The section of the Classic of Filial Piety that talks about being a good official says, “In serving your mother, the love you show towards her should be the same as that shown to your father; in serving your superior, the respect you pay to him should be as much as that you pay to your father. Therefore, emphasizing love towards your father is the way of serving your mother and emphasizing respect is the way of serving your superior. That is to say having both love and the respect is exactly the way of serving your father.”
What do you have to do to be considered filial to your parents? The Xiaoya Xiaowan Chapter in the Book of Odes says, “From the time you rise in the morning till you retire at night, do nothing that would bring disgrace to those who gave birth to you.” Is that enough? The section of the Classic of Filial Piety that talks about filial conduct says, “In serving your parents, you should also pay attention to the following: If in a high position, do not be arrogant and conceited； if in a subordinate position, do not commit offenses and incite rebellion; get along with your colleagues and avoid contention… If you cannot avoid the three evils of arrogance, rebellion, and contention, causing your parents to worry constantly about you, then even if you served beef, mutton, and pork to your parents every day, you would not be considered filial!” In other words, filial piety consists of changing your own bad habits.
When serving your parents in filial piety, you should also do a good job in serving the Buddhas, for while our parents have given us our physical bodies and lives, the Buddhas rescue our wisdom life. We ought to use the same affection and reverence with which we serve our parents to serve the Buddhas, rising early and retiring late, working diligently, and not doing anything that would bring disgrace to the parents of our wisdom-life, that is, the Buddha. Is that all we have to do to be filial to the Buddhas? If you still don’t change your old habits of arrogance, contention, greed, and other faults, you will cause the Buddhas to worry about you, and how can that be considered filial piety?
Filial piety is the source of all the Buddha’s Sutras. In a former life, Earth Store Bodhisattva was a filial Brahman woman. Venerable Maudgalyayana, wishing to free his mother from the path of hungry ghosts, went to ask the Buddha to rescue her, an thus the Ullambana Ceremony came about. In Buddhism, killing one’s father and killing one’s mother, along with shedding the Buddha’s blood, are classified among the Five Rebellious Offenses that merit falling into the Unintermittent Hells.
If a person who is not filial to his parents prays for blessings, there is no way he or she will obtain them.
In the Buddha’s time, there was an evil and foolish person in Rajagriha who was unfilial to his parents, cheated good people, did not respect his elders, caused his family to fall into ruin, and had all kinds of bad luck. He decided to go worship the fire spirit in order to seek its protection.
The method of worshipping the fire spirit involved lighting a big fire at the time of sunset and making prostrations to it until midnight, when the fire was extinguished. He worshipped in this way for three years, but there was no improvement in his lifestyle, so then he began to worship the sun-moon spirit instead to go worship the fire spirit in order to seek its protection.
The method of worship involved making prostrations to the sun at sunrise, and making prostrations to the moon when it ascends into the sky at night, bowing continuously until the sun sets behind the mountains, and the moon sets in the west. He bowed like this for three years, but still didn’t receive any blessings or protection, so he changed to worshipping the heaven spirit. Every day he lit incense and made prostrations to the heavens, making offerings of fresh flowers, fine wine, and dried pork, mutton, and beef, hoping to obtain blessings. In bowing to the heavens, he wore himself out until he was too sick to leave his house. Then he heard that there was someone known as the Buddha in Shravasti, whom all the heaven spirits worshipped. He thought he ought to go worship Him as well, for it would certainly bring him blessings.
He went to Shravasti and met the Buddha, and told the Buddha what he had been doing for the past nine years, saying that now that he had met the Buddha, he hoped the Buddha could bestow blessings upon him.
The Buddha told him, “If you worship spirits hoping for blessings, you will find that you will not gain even a quarter of what you put in. It would be better to venerate good and worthy people. If you can be virtuous, humble, and sincere, always respecting your elders and seniors, the four blessings will naturally increase and you will enjoy health, longevity, and peace.” (Chapter 17 of the Dharmapada Sutra)
A person who is unfilial to his parents and disrespectful to his elders cannot possibly attain blessings and protection. In Buddhism, we consider all living beings to be our parents from past lives. ” All men have been my fathers. All women have been my mothers.” The scope of filial piety is expanded and becomes an impartial filial piety directed not only towards our own parents in this life, but towards all our parents in the past, present, and future. This kind of impartial spirit could be said to be the utmost state of filial piety.
惟 德 學 ， 惟 才 藝
wei de xue
wei cai yi
只有 品德 學識
只有 才能 技藝
only if virtue knowledge
only if talents skills
If your virtue, learning, and talents,
不 如 人 ， 常 自 勵
bu ru ren
chang zi li
經常 自己 勉勵
not as good as others
always self to urge
Do not measure up to others friends’, then spur yourself on to try harder.
若 衣 服 ， 若 飲 食
ruo yi fu
ruo yin shi
至於 上衣 下服
至於 飲料 食物
as to top shirts skirts or pants
as to drink food
If your clothes or your food,
不 如 人 ， 勿 生 戚
bu ru ren
wu sheng qi
不要 生起 憂傷
not as good as others
do not to give rise to sorrow
are not as good as others’, do not be sad or upset.
If you ask people, “What is the most important thing in life? ” most would probably give answers such as gold, silver, precious gems, fertile fields and fine houses, or a happy family and a successful career. Actually, the most precious thing we own is our virtue. Only by cherishing virtue as a treasure can we devote ourselves to practicing virtuous deeds; only by devoting ourselves to virtuous work can we cultivate the Way and achieve virtue; and only by cultivating the Way and achieving virtue can we maintain a good conscience and have no cause for remorse before Heaven and people. As it’s said, “The humane are not worried; the wise are not deluded; the brave are not frightened.”
What is it that they are not worried, deluded, or frightened about? And why are they not worried, deluded, or frightened? Actually, fame and profit are at the bottom of it. The humane dwell in humaneness and don’t worry about whether or not they have fame or profit. The wise help the humane and are not deluded by the gain or loss of fame and profit. The brave admire the humane and are not afraid of whether their fame and profit are large or small. These three types of people all cherish virtue. When they are successful, they are modest and courteous. When they are in poverty, they remain peaceful and content. In whatever they do, they do it properly without seeking fame or profit. Since they aren’t seeking fame or profit, they naturally will not expect things from others, and so what could they possibly be worried, deluded, or frightened about?
Confucius’ disciple Zilu, for example, was truly a brave man. It is recorded in history that, dressed in ragged clothes, he mingled with lords and dukes without the slightest embarrassment or fear. Why was this? It was because his character was honest and straightforward, and so he had no reason to feel inferior to or afraid of powerful people.
Yuan Xian, another disciple of Confucius, was a person of virtuous purity who was poor yet delighted in the truth and was not ashamed of his humble clothing or food. When Confucius was still alive, Yuan Xian was already very resolute and incorruptible. After Confucius passed away, he resigned from his government post and became a hermit in the wilderness of the state of Wei. Although his roof was made of thatch and his door of raspberry vines, through which the wind could blow and the rain could seep in, and what he ate was wild vegetables and plain water, and he didn’t always have food for a meal, he continued to sit up straight and study.
After Zi Gong became the prime minister of Wei, he went, dressed in satin and accompanied by a large retinue of mounted men, through the wilderness to where the poor peasants lived, to visit his old friend Yuan Xian. When Zi Gong saw Yuan Xian dressed in tattered clothes and looking gaunt and haggard, he asked in surprise, “Are you sick?” Yuan Xian replied, “I’ve heard it said that, “Those who own nothing are said to be poor; those who study the Way and are unable to practice it are said to be sick.’ I am merely poor, not sick! ” Upon hearing those words, Zi Gong felt very ashamed and left in low spirits. Throughout his life, Zi Gong always felt ashamed if he spoke carelessly.
Actually Zi Gong was a talented businessman who could express himself very eloquently. He and Yuan Xian were totally disparate in terms of wealth. As an official, Zi Gong was both rich and honored. It’s quite remarkable that he showed such concern for his old friend and went to visit him. Seeing Yuan Xian’s poverty, Zi Gong expressed his surprise from the point of view that “a learned person should become an official and serve the country” and out of grief that his talent was wasted. Therefore, we need not criticize Zi Gong too much, since he was one who would repent and feel lifelong shame whenever he learned of his own faults. This is not a quality found in ordinary people. Yuan Xian’s disregard for wealth and honor is also a rare quality worthy of our admiration.
The great poet Bai Ju-yi of the Tang dynasty once wrote a poem containing the following lines:
Yearn not for wealth and honor.
Grieve not about poverty and low status.
Ask yourself how your cultivation of the Way is,
And that not be concerned with being noble or lowly.
This is the same principle as that expressed in the line from the Confucian Analects: “The superior person devotes his attention to the Way and not to food.” These sayings tell people that cultivating virtue is the essential thing, and we should not waste our energy on externals such as clothing and food. An idiom says, “You may have all the delicacies of the world, but you cannot eat more than three meals in a day. You may have luxurious, sprawling mansions, but you only take up a few feet of space when you sleep.” What’s the point of working so hectically for such things? And if you kill creatures just to please your palate, you may suffer the consequences for many lifetimes to come!
聞 過 怒 ， 聞 譽 喜
wen guo nu
wen yu xi
聽到 過錯 生氣
聽到 讚美 歡喜
hearing faults to get angry
hearing praise to be happy
If we are angry when told of our faults, and happy when praise comes our way.
損 友 來 ， 益 友 卻
sun you lai
yi you que
有害的 朋友 來到
有益 朋友 退開
harmful friends to come
beneficial friends to depart
Then harmful friends will draw near us, and wholesome friends will depart.
聞 譽 恐 ， 聞 過 欣
wen yu kong
wen guo xin
聽到 讚美 恐慌
聽到 過錯 高興
hearing praise to be anxious
hearing faults to delight
If compliments make us uneasy, and we are glad when our faults are brought up.
直 諒 士 ， 漸 相 親
zhi liang shi
jian xiang qin
正直 誠信 知識份子
漸漸 前來 親近
upright honest a gentleman or learned person
gradually come forward to draw near
Honest and straightforward friends then gradually come to our side.
Before his death, Confucius said to his disciple Zeng Seng, “After I die, Zi Xia will keep making progress, but Zi Gong will keep regressing.” Zeng Seng thought this strange and asked, “Why will that be?” Confucius replied, “Zi Xia likes to be around people who are better than he is, while Zi Gong likes to be surrounded by people who are not as good as he is so that he can always express his own opinions. I have heard it said that one can understand a person by observing his parents and friends; one can understand a ruler by observing the people he appoints, one can evaluate a piece of land by seeing what vegetation grows on it.
Therefore it is said, “Associating with virtuous people is like entering a greenhouse full of orchids and getting used to the fragrance until you no longer notice it. Being around unwholesome people is like going into a fish market and getting used to the stench so that you don’t notice it.” Imperceptibly, we are influenced by our surroundings until we no longer notice them. Objects that are placed in red dye become red; things dipped in black paint turn black. Therefore, a superior person is careful in choosing the people with whom he associates. “Confucius’ meaning is not only that we should be careful about our associations, but also we attract people of like character to be our friends. There’s another saying, “Dragons like to be with dragons, phoenixes prefer the company of phoenixes, and the sons of mice know how to make holes.” That’s the meaning here.
During the Three Kingdoms Period, the military strategist Zhu-ge Liang wrote a profoundly inspiring memorial to the emperor before he departed on a military expedition; this is a text of undeniable importance in Chinese history and literature. This memorial was completed seven years before Zhu-ge Liang died of illness while serving the military, After the death of Emperor Liu Bei, Zhu-ge Liang continued to support his son, Emperor Liu Chan. In five years the government was stabilized, and Zhu-ge Liang felt he could now personally lead the army on an expedition. However, right before his departure, he was still worried about Emperor Liu Chan and wrote this memorial. The text basically urged the emperor, “Do not take yourself lightly and recklessly say things that will make others lose faith in you, which will discourage their faithful exhortations.” The memorial mentions the following case from the Book of History to caution the emperor: The Former Han Dynasty flourished because the rulers “associated with worthy officials and stayed away from petty individuals.” The Later Han Dynasty declined because the rulers “associated with petty people and stayed away from worthy officials.” At the end of the memorial, Zhu-ge Liang again exhorted the emperor, “You should reflect well, so that you will be able to seek wholesome principles and to determine and accept good advice.”
The meaning is the same as the line, “Do not take yourself lightly and recklessly say things that will make others lose faith in you, which will discourage their faithful exhortations.” Zhu-ge Liang hoped the emperor would not casually speak in an unprincipled way that would make others afraid to exhort him, but would instead reflect carefully in order to seek out good principles and look into and accept the exhortations of loyal officials. Then he would win the support of worthy people and bring glory to his ancestors’ legacy. Zhu-ge Liang’s advice was earnest and came from his heart. Regretfully, the emperor was still the ” A’dou who could not stand on his own feet.” (A’dou was his nickname). After Zhu-ge Liang’s death, the emperor forgot his advice and surrounded himself with flattering courtiers, with the result that the dynasty ended.
Most people say that they wish to hear the truth, but that isn’t really the case. The truth is usually very plain and ordinary, or perhaps not very pleasant to hear. When the truth takes the form of pointing out their faults, people find it unbearable. That’s how flattery developed! People love to hear flattery and take it to be the truth, while they are enraged to hear earnest remonstrance and regard it as malicious slander. So it is said, “People gather with their own kind.” People who like to hear praise attract hypocritical friends who butter up to them, flatter them, and put them on a pedestal with their smooth lies. These are harmful friends. Associating with harmful friends can only be detrimental to one’s character, morality, learning, and even materially to one’s wealth and career. Conversely, one who is able to accept exhortations will attract beneficial friends.
What are the criteria for a beneficial friend? A beneficial friend is “a friend who is straightforward, forgiving, and erudite.” That is, he is a good mentor who is straightforward and reliable in his dealings, and who is able to exhort others to change their faults. A good mentor is not that easy to come by. If you do not first discipline yourself and have self-respect, how can you expect to have a good mentor who will constantly be around and with whom you can have heart-to-heart talks? If such a good mentor is always present, you will not only become straightforward and trustworthy yourself, but will also advance in your moral virtue, your knowledge, and your career as well. That would truly be a case of “gathering together with people of superior virtue” [Amitabha Sutra]. How happy and wonderful that would be!
In reality, other people’s suggestions may not be all that un- pleasant to hear, and they sometimes bring unexpected results. Everyone is familiar with Abraham Lincoln, the Sixteenth U.S. President who sported a full beard. Do you know who suggested that he grow a beard? It’s quite an amusing anecdote.
One day when Lincoln was running for President, he received a letter from a young girl. The letter said, “Mr. Lincoln, if you grew a beard, it would make your long, thin face look better. Hope you win!” Lincoln took the suggestion to heart and let his beard grow. His new appearance was unexpectedly popular and soon became his trademark. After Lincoln was elected, he made a special point of stopping in the little girl’s town on his way to the White House. After delivering a speech there, Lincoln invited that little girl to come forward from the crowd and warmly said to her, “Thank you for your suggestion. See? I have a beard now!” Then he gave her a kiss on the face with his bearded mouth. The little girl blushed happily and almost forgot to give Lincoln the bouquet of flowers she had brought.
無 心 非 ， 名 為 錯
wu xin fei
ming wei cuo
不存 心地 做錯
稱呼 做 錯誤
not on purpose to do things wrong
to be called as mistake
When an error is not made on purpose, it is simply called a mistake.
有 心 非 ， 名 為 惡
you xin fei
ming wei e
稱、叫 做 罪惡
on purpose to do things
to be called as evil
To deliberately do something wrong is not just a mistake, but an evil.
過 能 改 ， 歸 於 無
guo neng gai
gui yu wu
過錯 能夠 改正
回 到 沒有
to do things wrong can to reform to change
goes back to nothing
If we can reform our offenses, our offenses will all disappear.
倘 掩 飾 ， 增 一 辜
tang yan shi
zeng yi gu
如果 掩蓋 文飾
增加 一個 罪
if to cover up to hide and gloss over
to increase one offense
But trying to cover them up will make our offenses much worse.
We often talk about mistakes, evil, and offenses in the same breath. But actually, although they all refer to wrongdoings, they are not the same. In what way are they different? In the underlying mental state. When one unintentionally does something wrong, one creates wrong karma, but is without the evil of breaking precepts. When one deliberately does something wrong, one not only creates evil karma, but has the offense of breaking precepts. And regardless of whether or not one’s wrongdoing was intentional or not, if one is afraid of people finding out, then one will cover it up again and again, defiling one’s mind and adding to one’s offenses until they become unpardonable and there is no way to avoid one’s evil retribution. Such subtle differences in one’s initial thought can lead to such widely different results. It is truly a case of, “Off by a hairsbreadth in the beginning, one misses by a thousand miles in the end.” How can we not be careful?
Once a psychology teacher held up before her class a sheet of blank white paper, on which she drew a black dot. Then she asked her students, “What is this?” The students replied in unison, “A black dot!” The teacher said, “This is clearly a sheet of white paper. Why does everyone say that it’s a black dot?” The students were speechless and could not reply. The teacher said, “This white sheet of paper is like our own nature, which is originally pure. The black dot is like the mistakes we make. When we make a mistake, other people can tell right away, just as you only noticed this black dot. Therefore, we’d better not do things wrong.”
The teacher paused, and then continued, “If you do make a mistake, what should you do?” Several students answered, “Correct it!” “OK! Watch this!” The teacher picked up a pen and quickly added a few more strokes to the black dot, turning it into a bee. Then she asked, “What’s this?” A few students said it was a bee. Others asked, “Is that a picture?’ The teacher asked, “Is this prettier than the blank white pa- per?” The students replied together, “Yes!” The teacher then took another sheet of white paper that had a black dot on it, covered it with white powder, then cut out a small piece of white paper and pasted it over the area. Then she asked, “Does this look nice?” The students all laughed and said, “That’s ugly!” The teacher said, “When we do something wrong and try to cover it up, other people can still see the marks on the white paper and think it’s very ugly and strange. However, if you can learn from your mistakes and sincerely reform, it is like transforming the black dot on the paper into a beautiful picture.” .
Mencius used a similar analogy when he said, “The errors of the ancient worthies were like eclipses of the sun or moon； all the people could see them. When they corrected their faults, the entire populace looked up to them.” Solar and lunar eclipses are natural phenomena. However, people in ancient times considered them bad omens and would rush to inquire about their meaning from oracles and deities. When the sun and moon regained their full radiance, everyone would sigh in relief and sing and dance in celebration. The shining sun and moon are analogies for a virtuous person whose every word and deed is admired by the people. A solar or lunar eclipse represents the staining of a worthy man’s virtue. However, a worthy person would not try to cover up those stains; he would simply diligently reform so that he could be radiant again.
When the radiance of the sun or moon reappears, people feel only joy and gratitude. When a worthy person reforms, people only admire and look up to him more. Basically, “People are not sages; who can be without faults?” However, that doesn’t mean we can use this statement as an excuse to be careless. The important thing to remember is, “If you have faults, don’t be afraid to change.” Why are people afraid to change their faults? Because once your mistakes are known, your reputation is ruined and people may make fun of you or scold you. The process of reforming can be full of ordeals. To not fear anything and diligently overcome the obstructions in your mind is to be truly courageous. And so it’s said, “There is no greater good than being able to change your faults.” What if you have faults but do not change? There is “no greater misfortune” than that!.
The Buddha said, “The ten thousand dharmas are made from the mind alone.” We can compare the mind to water. Boats can travel in water, and they can also sink in water. Offenses can be created by the mind, and they can also be eradicated by the mind. A Buddhist repentance puts it aptly:
Offenses arise from the mind and
must be repented in the mind.
When the mind is gone, offenses are also gone.
With mind and offenses gone, both are empty .
That is called true repentance and reform.
Repentance involves changing one’s faults. Faults must be changed at their root. One must rectify the mind-the source of all offenses and blessings. The Great Learning discusses the skill of rectifying the mind:
Do not cheat even when alone in a dark room;
do not be ashamed of a leaking house.
There is a proverb:
Righteousness resembling the blue sky and white sun
is nurtured in situations like a dark room or a leaking house.
The power to change the world comes from being
as cautious as if one were walking on a precipice or treading on thin ice.
This is telling us that we should be as cautious and scrupulous when alone in a dark room as when we are in a crowd. Our inner thoughts and outer actions should correspond, so that we are not the least bit deceptive. We must be this way even when we find ourselves in chaos or wandering without a home.
Mr. Zhu’s Guidelines for Managing the Household say, “Good deeds that are done for others to see are not truly good. Evil that is done fearing others will find out is great evil.” If our hearts are bright and forthright, and we do not act in ways to seek praise from others or benefit for ourselves, we will naturally be great heroes and our lives will be truly meaningful. We should never let ourselves be tempted by momentary enjoyment or fame into doing something that will bring on eternal disgrace.
凡 是 人 ， 皆 須 愛
fan shi ren jie xu ai
都 必須 愛護
whoever is what kind of people
all must to cherish
For everyone throughout the world, one should cherish a kind regard.
天 同 覆 ， 地 同 載
tian tong fu di tong zai
天空 相同 覆蓋
土地 相同 承運
sky equally to cover
earth equally to carry
Because we all live under the same sky and are supported by the same earth.
Regarding the definition of love, there is a very moving description in the Corinthians section of the Bible,” Love is patient, love is kind, It dose not envy, it dose not boast, it is not proud, It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, Love dose not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Jesus preached universal love. After teaching people across the land, he willingly allowed his fellow men to crucify him, so that he could suffer on behalf of the world’s people. Confucius pursued the ideal of benevolence all his life, in his search for a king who would be able to govern with benevolence; he wandered through various countries until his death. These examples teach us that we should love people.
People in this world, regardless of their ethnic background, nationality, skin color, gender, age, economic and social status, all live under the same sky, walk upon the same earth, and breathe the same air. This is due to affinities we have created over hundreds and thousands of eons. Yet, because of our desire for personal gain and our attachments, we very easily get into a belligerent frame of mind. We fight not only with ourselves, but with others. This leads to family feuds, competition among companies, wars among nations, and bickering among religions. There are struggles and battles going on all the time, turning what was once a beautiful world into a scarred and hideous world. Who is to blame? Whose fault is it?
Since some unknown time, people’s minds have become more and more narrow and their views more and shallower with each passing day. As a result, aggression and fighting have become more and more prevalent. In the end, it is we ourselves who get hurt! Therefore, people of all religions, those who care about the spiritual path, have been traveling around and speaking out forcefully, hoping to awaken the love in people’s hearts, using love to save the world we live in.
However, the benevolent love that most religions and philosophies speak of is directed at human beings. Buddhism alone extends the. Bounds of love to encompass all living beings, whether they fly, swim, crawl, or remain still; whether they are born from wombs, eggs, moisture, or transformation; creatures endowed with various physical appearances, temperaments, and outlooks. Why? Because all these living beings, before becoming enlightened and achieving Buddhahood, are deluded and do not realize that they have been of the same species and the same families as other beings, in the endless cycle of transmigration. If they happen to have different forms and belong to different species in this life, they mutually want to hurt one another. Thus the atmosphere is suffused with hatred and enmity. When living beings breathe in that air, their dispositions grow more violent and perverse.
In this vicious cycle, great and small wars break out endlessly. The Buddha appeared in the world in order to teach and guide the deluded masses, hoping to wake us up so we realize our past mistakes and do things right from now on, and ultimately realize Buddhahood. The Buddha represents wisdom and enlightenment. The realization of Buddhahood involves turning away from delusion and returning to enlightenment; awakening to Bodhi and achieving a state of great wisdom. All living beings will sooner or later realize Buddhahood, regardless of whether they are human beings in this life and whether or not they believe in Buddhism.
Strictly speaking, Buddhism cannot be considered a religion. Whereas religions are usually partisan, Buddhism transcends all par- ties and factions. It is the teaching of wisdom. That’s why we say that Buddhism is the teachings of the Buddha, and it is also the pursuit of wisdom by living beings. The seed of this great wisdom is inherent in all living beings. In order for it to bloom and bear fruit, it must be watered with the water of kindness and compassion.
What is meant by kindness and compassion? In simple terms, kindness means cherishing living beings and making them happy; compassion means sympathizing with living beings and eliminating their suffering. “Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Universal Door Chapter” in the Lotus Sutra praises Guanshiyin Bodhisattva in this way:
Living beings are beset with hardships and
oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Guanyin ‘s wondrous wisdom can rescue the world from suffering.
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is also known as the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. And Maitreya Bodhisattva, with his big belly that holds everything and his ever-laughing mouth, wears what the Lotus Sutra calls “the clothing of gentleness and patience” and cultivates the Dharma door of making living beings happy; he is the Bodhisattva of Great Kindness.
The “Chapter of Universal Worthy’s Conduct and Vows” in the Avatamsaka Sutra says, “The Bodhisattva takes living beings as his roots. By benefiting all beings with the water of great compassion, the Bodhisattva can realize the flowers and fruit of wisdom.” Living beings are like the roots of a tree; Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruit. If there are no roots, or if the roots are there but they do not get watered, how can the tree grow tall and strong? How can it blossom and bear fruit? That is why those who study and practice the Bodhisattva Path are able not only to cherish living beings with a kind heart, but to sacrifice themselves and compassionately gather in living beings. The Venerable Master Hua made Eighteen Great Vows. Doesn’t his third vow, “to undergo suffering on behalf of all living beings,” make him a transformation of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion?
According to the Dhammapada, the Buddha said that people who al- ways practice kindness and compassion will obtain twelve kinds of benefits in life after life: (1) They are always blessed. (2) They sleep peacefully. (3) They are peaceful when awake. (4) They have no nightmares. (5) They are protected by gods, (6) They are loved by people. (7) They will not be poisoned. (8) They will not be involved in the military .(9) They will not be killed by water. (10) They will not be killed by fire. (11) They will obtain benefit wherever they are. (12) They will ascend to the Brahma Heaven after death.
Therefore, whether one is a Buddhist or not, to practice kindness and compassion is beneficial to others as well as oneself. Thus, is there any reason not to practice? The Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was a very kind and compassionate man. When he was still living in Springfield, Illinois, there was a girl who had planned a trip with her friend. However, the person she had asked to help her carry her luggage did not show up, and she herself did not even know where the train station was. She was so worried that she stood by the door and started crying. Lincoln happened to pass by and asked what the matter was. Seeing that there was still time to catch the train, he picked up her luggage and told her to follow him.
The girl raced to keep up with the long-legged gentleman, following him to the station. The train had not left yet! Lincoln helped put her bags on the car and then left without taking a cent. Another time, when he was still a lawyer, he and several colleagues made a trip on horseback to take care of some business. On their way, they passed by a forest. The group spotted a stream and went to water their horses. At that time, they discovered that Lincoln was no longer with them. One of his companions said, “Lincoln found a baby bird that had been blown down by the wind. He must be looking for its nest!” Soon afterwards, Lincoln caught up with his companions and told them, “I found the nest! It was difficult, but I was determined to find it. If I didn’t return that poor little bird to its mother, I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight.”
行 高 者 ， 名 自 高
xing gao zhe
ming zi gao
品行 高尚 的人
名聲 自然 高尚、顯揚
conduct high, lofty of people
reputation naturally high, lofty
People whose conduct is fine are sure to have good reputations.
人 所 重 ， 非 貌 高
ren suo zhong
fei mao gao
別人 的 (人事物) 看重
不是因為 外表 高貴
others that which to honor
is not appearance lofty, high class
What people respect in a person is not merely his fine appearance.
才 大 者 ， 望 自 大
cai da zhe
wang zi da
才幹 偉大的 的人
聲望 自然 偉大
talent great of people
prestige naturally great
People who have great ability thereby enjoy great prestige.
人 所 服 ， 非 言 大
ren suo fu
fei yan da
別人 的(人事物) 服從
不是因為 言詞 富麗堂皇
others that which to obey
is not speech great
When people place their trust in a person, it is merely not because he talks well.
There is a proverb: “people cannot be judged by appearance; sea water cannot be measured by pecks,” Among the disciples of Confucius, Zai yu’s eloquence was first rate. However, he was overly rash and foolhardy. every time he stepped beyond the bounds of propriety in his speech or actions, he inevitably failed. On the other hand, Zhantai Mieming (whose other name was Zi Yu) was rather homely, and at their first meeting Confucius did not think he had much talent. Later, he gradually discovered that Zi Yu was a righteous gentleman who cautiously abided by the law and did not take shortcuts. And so Confucius exclaimed with a sigh, “A folk proverb says, Judge a horse by how it pulls a chariot; judge a scholar by how he lives.” How could we ignore this? If we judged people by appearance alone, we would be wrong about Zi Yu. If we judged people by their speech, we would be wrong about Zai Yu.”
His meaning was that we should not overlook the advice of that proverb. Before we can determine the caliber of a horse, we have to see how it pulls a chariot. In appraising a scholar, we have to look at his daily living habits. If we only consider a person’s appearance, we will be prejudiced against Zi Yu. If we only believed a person’s words, we will overestimate Zai Yu. It is then very likely that, because we are unable to employ a person according to his talents, we will lose the person and take a loss ourselves! Therefore, we cannot evaluate a person based on the first impression that we get from his external words and behavior . Actually, people like Zai Yu, who was intelligent and talented, yet overambitious and careless in behavior, and like Zi Yu, who had great ability hidden beneath a plain exterior, are around us, too. It is just that we easily make the mistake of judging people by their appearance or by their words, thereby failing to appreciate people’s talents or else overestimating them.
Looking at it from another angle, if our own looks are plain, we should start by working on our inner cultivation, so that in times of peace we can come out to serve the country well, and in times of chaos we can retreat into seclusion in the countryside. If we are blessed with the appearance of being very capable, we should also increase our inner virtue, and not be like an embroidered pillow that is pretty to look at but not much use. We should also avoid letting our tongues wag carelessly and bring disasters upon ourselves. This is the Middle Way.
If you look at great men and women of the past and present, around the world, you will see the benevolence and humility with which they go about their daily activities. Benevolence and humility are the foundation of the human spirit. All the theories of government and politics boil down to teaching us how to win people’s hearts and skillfully guide them. Great leaders and heroes succeed because they are able to win people’s hearts. Those who fail, fail because they lose people’s hearts. What people value and respect is the practice of genuine virtue, not flowery words, handsome appearance, or great power .
Alexander the Great was a wise king of Greece. One time he visited a city in the south. All the great and minor government officials and all the local men of repute gathered to greet him. Only the great philosopher Diogenes did not go. Thereupon Alexander the Great personally went to pay respects to him. When he arrived at Diogenes’ dwelling, he saw him sitting there, basking in the sun. He went up and made a half bow, said that he had long admired the philosopher, and asked, “Is there any matter in which I can offer my help?” Diogenes said, “Yes. All I ask is that you move to the side a bit so that you don’t block the sun!” Alexander was amused and left without feeling the least bit upset.
One time, after George Washington had assumed office as the first President of the United States, he went out on horseback for a pleasure ride, dressed in civilian clothes. Passing by a river, he noticed a military official directing two soldiers, who were trying to lift a large wooden plank onto the river bank. The bank was very high and the plank was heavy, and the two soldiers could not manage to lift it, though they were exerting their utmost strength. The official kept yelling, “Use more strength! Use more strength!” but did not attempt to help them. Washington said, “They have already exhausted their strength! Why don’t you give them a hand?” The official glared and said loudly, “I’m a lieutenant, do you know that?” Washington said, “Sorry, I wasn’t aware. If I had known you were a lieutenant, I wouldn’t have insulted you!” So saying, he took off his coat and jumped down to help the two soldiers lift the plank onto the river bank.
Eisenhower was another American President. Once, when he was still a military official and was inspecting an army barracks, he discovered the national flag hanging upside down. That was a serious mistake in the army, and the two officers who were in charge of raising and lowering the flag turned pale in fear. But Eisenhower kindly told the two, “Children! You have broken a serious military law. Now I command you to immediately lower the flag, set it upright, and raise it again!” Eisenhower’s kindness won him the support of the entire U.S. military, who fondly referred to him by his nickname, Ike. It was not by mere chance that he later won the Presidential election.
The famous French military leader, Napoleon, was rather plain- looking and short in stature. However, he had remarkable resolve and vision. One night during the war, as he was inspecting camp, he came upon a sentry who had fallen asleep while on duty, leaning on his rifle. Napoleon himself stood guard until the sentry woke up. That sentry was so frightened that he got on his knees and begged forgiveness. Napoleon said, “You have toiled so hard in fighting this war with me that you have not had time to sleep. Now that you have awakened, you must do your job well. Don’t let the enemy sneak in!” Now, wouldn’t you think that sentry would do his best to follow Napoleon’s orders from then on? Another time, after he had become the Emperor of France, he and the beautiful Empress Josephine were strolling in the streets dressed in civilian clothes. A man carrying a heavy load was coming towards them. Napoleon pulled the empress to one side and allowed the man to pass first. The empress asked, “You are the Emperor. Why do you move out of the way for a common civilian?
“Napoleon said, “The emperor and the civilian are both people. He is carrying a heavy burden, while the two of us are empty- handed. If we let him pass first, it makes his job a lot easier; meanwhile, we have not lost the dignity of our royal position.” From then on, the wise Josephine held him in even higher esteem and aided him in achieving great deeds. These anecdotes illustrate that people are respected for their virtue other than their meritorious achievements and titles.
己 有 能 ， 勿 自 私
ji you neng
wu zi si
自己 有 才能
不要 自己 有私心
ourselves have ability
do not be selfish
The abilities we ourselves have should not be employed selfishly.
人 有 能 ， 勿 輕 訾
ren you neng
wu qing zi
別人 有 才能
不要 輕浮 誹謗批評
others have ability
do not lightly to criticize
The abilities others may have should not be belittled or scorned.
勿 諂 富 ， 勿 驕 貧
wu chan fu
wu jiao pin
不要 曲意奉承 富貴的人
不要 驕傲、看不起 貧賤的人
do not to be obsequious the rich
do not to be arrogant the poor
We should not flatter the rich or look down on the poor.
勿 厭 故 ， 勿 喜 新
wu yan gu
wu xi xin
不要 厭棄 舊的(人事物)
不要 喜愛 新的(人事物)
do not to dislike what is old
do not to delight in what is new
What is old need not be rejected; what is new need not be sought after.
In society, there are two kinds of contemptible behavior. The first is to keep your skill and knowledge to yourself and refuse to impart them to those who request to be taught, being jealous and obstructive of those who have ability .The second is to draw near to those who are powerful, hoping to get some influence from them, while making things worse for those who are weak and in a bad situation. What do I mean?
The first kind of vile practice is when people stingily refuse to impart knowledge and skills to those who seek instruction, out of fear that others will surpass them. Such people always hold something back and don’t pass on all that they know. In the end, their skills and knowledge go with them into the coffin and are lost forever! These people usually have an overly high opinion of themselves and regard others with either contempt or jealousy. Not only are they jealous of those in their own field, they also slander and attack those in other fields, wreaking havoc in society and destroying the peace.
People who are truly kind and humane always consider the well-being of others as well as the society and country as a whole. They never hesitate to share their own knowledge, abilities, skills, and experience with others. In reality, an individual’s glory or disgrace, when compared against the evolutionary history of humankind, is only a tiny cross-section of a mote of dust. Why should we be so concerned about it? To hide one’s own abilities away only reveals one’s own shallow understanding. To be jealous and obstructive exposes one’s own lack of self-confidence. Humane ones spontaneously avoid such behavior, and wise ones would not stoop to it.
Once, during a large, formal party, a woman asked a petty-minded doctor numerous medical questions. The doctor answered each question. Afterwards, he secretly asked the lawyer next to him, “Should I collect a fee from that woman?” The lawyer’s sober reply was, “Since you have imparted your expertise to her, you should certainly ask her to pay!” The following day, the doctor mailed a bill to the woman for ten dollars. Soon afterwards, the postman delivered a letter from the lawyer. The letter said, “Please pay a legal fee of twenty dollars.” This joke makes fun of people who are stingy about teaching others.
Greenfair, after graduating from Cambridge University Medical School in England, soon became an eminent doctor known for his virtue, knowledge, and medical skill. Once he was traveling past a place called Lapland, near the North Pole. It was cold and barren, and the three thousand inhabitants made their living by fishing. Their lives were wretched. If they fell sick, they had no medicine and could only wait for death to take them. Greenfair felt that those people needed him more, so he stayed there to treat the fishermen for free. In several decades’ time, he saved countless people. The fishermen were deeply grateful and respected him as they would a divinity .
On his sixtieth birthday, they held a great celebration in his honor. In the midst of the merriment and laughter, suddenly some- one showed up and asked him to go treat a patient in a village sixty miles away. Greenfair immediately grabbed his medicine chest, bid goodbye, and set off in the blizzard. He was truly a compassionate Bodhisattva who came to save the world!
The second kind of vile practice stems from an attitude of liking the new and growing weary of the old. This attitude is held toward things as well as people. Such a person butters up to rich people and is haughty toward the poor. He fawns upon power. As it is said, “There are always people willing to add flowers to brocade, but rarely are there people who will deliver coal when it’s snowing.” In order to elevate his own status, a person with this attitude will not hesitate to step on others. When he sees others in trouble, he will make things worse for them and not stop until he has done them in. Such behavior really makes one’s blood run cold. Actually, such a person, who lacks feeling and conscience, is truly pitiful and in need of teaching.
In the poetry of the Han Dynasty, there is one poem which describes the dialogue that takes place when a man runs into his former wife. Probably noting the grim expression on her former husband’s face and the disheveled look of his clothes, the woman inquired after his new wife out of concern. Having been raised in the old society, where a woman was taught to serve her father, husband, and son and possess four feminine virtues, her generous behavior was quite normal. The man, who had abandoned his former wife for a new woman who turned out to be dissatisfactory, had the gall to compare the new wife’s skill in weaving to the former wife’s. He said, “In terms of weaving, the new one is not as good as the former!” In my youth, such a man struck me as being totally utilitarian and devoid of modesty . When I grew older, having read a lot of history, I began to understand the law of cause and effect and learned to be more understanding. I am deeply grateful that China has these instructional poems, which teach us to be gentle, virtuous, kind, and forgiving.
During the Spring and Autumn Period in China, the emperor was weak and the feudal lords were strong. By the Warring States Period, the power shifted from the feudal lords to several people of the highest status in the royal family. Among these, the most eminent were known as the Four Princes of the Warring States Period. It was customary for these lords to surround themselves with talented men. They invited such men of ability to be lodgers in their home. For example, the leader of the Four Princes, Lord Meng Chang of the State of Qi, became known as “the one with three thousand lodgers.”
Lord Meng Chang’s increasing renown brought on the suspicions of the King of Qi, who removed him from his post as Minister and sent him back to his estate in Xue. At that point, the majority of Meng Chang’s lodgers deserted him. Later, due to the efforts of his loyal follower, Feng Huan, not only was Lord Meng Chang welcomed back as minister, but he was given a thousand more families to oversee. The lodgers who had previously deserted him came back one by one. Lord Meng Chang wanted to shame them, but Feng Huan hastily stopped him, saying, “When they were hungry, they drew near; having eaten their fill, they ran off. When it was warm here, they came close; when it was cold, they deserted. This fault is common to all people. It was not that they did not like the situation here; however, when they did not find what they want, they naturally thought about going elsewhere. You shouldn’t blame them for this, for that would hinder you from recruiting other men of ability .”
Meng Chang recognized the truth of Feng Huan’s words and took his advice. In light of this story, although we dare not say that Feng Huan was one of true humaneness, it would not be exaggerating to say that he was a wise man who deeply understand the causes and results of matters.
人 不 閑 ， 勿 事 攪
ren bu xian
wu shi jiao
別人 沒有 空閒
不要 別的事 攪混
others without free time
do not other matter to bother
If you see that a person is busy, don’t bother him with other matters.
人 不 安 ， 勿 話 擾
ren bu an
wu hua rao
別人 沒有 安寧
不要 言語 煩擾
others are not calm
do not useless words to annoy
If you see that someone’s upset, don’t annoy him with your idle chatter.
人 有 短 ， 切 莫 揭
ren you duan
qie mo jie
別人 有 短處
絕對 不要 揭穿
others have shortcomings
definitely do not to expose
Although you may know someone’s faults, there is no need to tell everyone.
人 有 私 ， 切 莫 說
ren you si
qie mo shuo
別人 有 隱私
絕對 不要 宣傳
others have private matters
definitely do not to speak
The personal business of others should not be the subject of talk.
Some people are not evil, yet they are loathed by others. Some people do not have bad intentions, yet they always do things that hurt others without benefiting themselves. There is no other reason for this, except that such people do not understand the art of saying the right things to the right people at the right time and the right place. A previous line in the text said, “For everyone throughout the world, cherish a fond regard.” However, such fond regard should be based upon what is right, or else it becomes indiscriminate love.
What is right means what is appropriate. In other words, we should speak and act appropriately. When our words and actions are appropriate, our relationships with others will be smooth and unobstructed. Learning to maintain harmonious relationships with people is a lesson that we continue to study into our old age and for which there is no fixed textbook or teacher .
If we speak at the wrong time, then even if we are talking to the right person and saying the right things, what was originally good be- comes bad. How much worse it would be if we are saying inappropriate things or engaging in idle chatter. If we are not speaking to the right person, then even if what we are saying is appropriate, it is like “strumming the lute to a cow .” If the topic of conversation is improper and affects someone else’s reputation, then it is a case of “bringing on disasters with the mouth”-the consequences will be endless. This section discusses the basic guidelines of conversation, which should not be taken lightly.
In general, to approach a person who is busy with other matters is like adding more weight to the load on his shoulders; that would be a poor way of dealing with people. To disturb someone who is distressed with unnecessary chatter is like “adding frost to snow”-that would be making a mistake in speech. As to the content of what is said, we should make a point of being concise and to the point and of avoiding unnecessary idle talk. We should definitely expose others , good points and not talk about their shortcomings; otherwise, we will certainly hurt others, which would be a double mistake in speech and human relations. We would then be in trouble ourselves, and also cause trouble for our family and our country.
Human people are always kind and magnanimous; they cannot bear to hurt or annoy others. Therefore, they usually speak very little. Wise people have a penetrating understanding of things and do not make poor judgments in dealing with people or talking to them; they are always careful in their speech. By speaking little, one avoids gossip. By speaking with caution, one avoids causing resentment. If one is able to watch one’s words in this way, one will hardly make any mistakes or suffer any calamities on account of one’s speech.
Confucius said, “When there is little to blame in one’s words and little to regret in one’s actions, one will travel at ease even in barbaric lands!” In other words, if one’s speech is trustworthy and one’s actions are sincere, one will be able to travel freely throughout the world! In this world, what greater freedom is there? Most people have a mistaken idea that freedom means being able to say and do whatever they feel like. By indulging in the false freedom of speaking and acting recklessly, they intrude upon the freedom of countless others and permanently lose their own freedom when the calamitous consequences of their careless behavior befall upon them.
Some lines in a preceding pas- sage of text said: To talk just a little is better than to chatter non-stop all day long. Talk only about what you’re sure of; don’t use cunning or flowery words. Mr. Chu’s Rules for Managing the Household warns us: “When others have cause to rejoice, we must not be jealous. When others suffer disasters, we must not feel glad.” If a matter does not concern us, there is no need to comment on it. Even if people have their bad sides, we should try to be tolerant.
After King Wu of the state of Zhou defeated the tyrant emperor Yin, he humbly went to pay his respects to the emperor’s old minister and inquired as to the reason for the emperor’s demise. The elder told him to come back the following day to meet him at a certain time and place. The next day, King Wu and the Duke of Zhou went together. The appointed time passed and they kept waiting for a long time, but the elder did not show up. The Duke of Zhou understood and said to King Wu in praise, “This elder is truly worthy! Although his former ruler was evil, he could not bear to speak about his faults. He could only hint to us, through breaking his own promise, that it was Yin’s untrustworthiness that brought his demise.”
Socrates was a great philosopher in ancient Greece. His views differed widely from those of the populace, and for that reason many people disliked him. One day, as he was strolling through Athens with a friend, a young man whom he did not know suddenly picked his pockets, hit him with a stick, and then fled. His friend, seeing that Socrates was not too badly hurt, was about to chase after the young man to even the score. However, Socrates grabbed his friend and continued walking as if nothing had happened. His friend asked him in surprise, “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of trouble!” “No, not at all,” said Socrates. “Then why didn’t you want to get back at the man who hit you?” Socrates smiled and said, “My old friend! Your brain has become addled! If a donkey kicked you, would you kick it back?”
In these two anecdotes, the refusal of the minister of the emperor of Yin to speak of the former emperor’s faults showed their humaneness; Socrates’ refusal to quarrel with a bad person showed his wisdom. Although we may not be humane by nature, how can we not be wise ones who strive to be humane?
道 人 善 ， 即 是 善
dao ren shan
ji shi shan
說 別人 長處、好行為
就 是 好行為
to tell about others strengths
just that is good
Praising the good points of others is itself a good point.
人 知 之 ， 愈 思 勉
ren zhi zhi
yu si mian
別人 知道 它(這件事)
更加 想 勉勵
others to know it
further, more to think to urge on
If people hear they have been praised, they will want to improve even more.
揚 人 短 ， 即 是 惡
yang ren duan
ji shi e
宣揚 別人的 缺點、過錯
就 是 罪惡
to spread word others shortcomings
just that is evil
There never is anything good in talking of others’ shortcomings.
疾 之 甚 ， 禍 且 作
ji zhi shen
huo qie zuo
怨恨 它(這件事) 過分地、極度地
災禍 將 發生
to hate it much, deeply
disaster is going to to happen
If they find out, they will surely hate it and there will be nothing but trouble.
There’s a saying, “It is always good to raise fish in a large pond; never stir up waves because of your own likes or dislikes.” With worldly love, it is generally the case that the deeper you love some- one, the more demanding and critical you are of that person. Due to this kind of attachment, people often get into fights with those they love and turn into enemies. If the love was deep, the hatred is even deeper. Therefore, it is a good idea to take a more tolerant and detached attitude towards people. As it is said, “those who cherish others will always be cherished. Those who respect others will always be respected.” If we make a point of being respectful and praising others instead of arguing with them, when others are happy it will only make us cherish ourselves and urge ourselves on. Even if we are not praised for such behavior, others have benefited from it and we have not lost anything by it.
We often hear of people who, because they took a loss, are furious and determined to gain revenge. They won’t rest until they have snatched back their own honor and benefit. Filled with grief and resentment at being wronged, they have no appetite and cannot sleep. Their mind becomes limited to a mean and narrow vision of things. Actually, whether or not you have taken a loss is a matter of how you look at it. If you don’t calculate for yourself, you won’t feel that you have taken a loss, and every day is a good day. If you calculate and scheme, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve taken a loss and so you get afflicted. Isn’t that a case of taking a double loss? It’s not worth it at all! Why don’t you ever take this into account in your calculations?
Further, it is the virtue of tolerance and loyalty to be able to overlook people’s faults and praise their good points. It is not a virtue to be overly righteous and hate evil people with a passion. Such a mentality can only be called chivalry; it cannot be considered righteousness and even less is it humaneness.
During the Spring and Autumn Era of the five feudal lords, Lord Mu of Qin and Lord Zhuang of Chu were both humane and tolerant rulers who did not talk about others’ shortcomings. Here are two popular anecdotes which show that it was not by luck that they were able to rule. They won people over with their humaneness.
Lord Mu of Qin had a beloved horse. When this horse disappeared during a hunting expedition, Lord Mu sent scouts all over the mountain to search for it. One party of mounted soldiers party detected smoke and tracked the smell to its source, where they saw a group of people roasting horsemeat over a fire. The soldiers angrily yelled, “You savages have all the gall! How could you steal the King’s beloved horse and slaughter it to eat?” They took those people before Lord Mu.
Although Lord Mu was saddened to learn of the death of his favorite horse, since there was no way to bring it back to life, he did not see any need to take the lives of all those people. Instead, he sent people to fetch an urn of fine wine and said, “I’ve heard that if one does not accompany fine horsemeat with fine wine, the stomach will not be able to take it. So all of you, please drink up!” Then he led his troops back to the city.
Several years later when the state of Qin went to war with the state of Jin, Qin underestimated the enemy and was badly defeated. Lord Mu and his men were driven into a gorge and caught in a precarious situation. Suddenly they heard what sounded like a roll of thunder, and a band of men came rolling huge boulders down the slope, right onto the enemy troops, which they then proceeded to attack and kill. The troops of Jin dispersed and fled for their lives. Lord Mu dismounted in shame and went to thank the men, “I have not treated my people very well. What blessing do I have that makes you risk your lives to rescue us?” The leader motioned for his group to kneel down, and then he said, “Great King! We are the people who ate the horsemeat!”
Lord Zhuang of the state of Chu once invited all the generals, ministers, and officials to a banquet, where he brought out his best aged wine and had his royal concubines take turns serving it. In the evening lamplight, when the officials were inebriated and deep in conversation, his favorite concubine quietly approached him and said, “Your Highness, just now when I was serving wine, one of the men acted improperly towards me. I stealthily snapped his hat strap. If you light up the lamps and take a look, you will know which man it was.”
Lord Zhuang said, “If I give a man wine and make him so drunk that he loses his manners, that is my own fault. How can I defile this great gathering of court officials with the petty ways of a concubine?” Thereupon he ordered more fine wine to be brought out, snuffed out the lamps, and said, “Tonight we, the Lord and his men, must drink until we are thoroughly drunk! Anyone who fails to drink to the point of snapping his hat strap will not have celebrated to the utmost.” By the next morning, the great officials were all dead drunk, and none of them had their hat strap.
Later on, while serving as an ambassador in another state, one official did all he could to protect the Lord Zhuang of Chu and even threatened that he would die with the lord of the other state. Finally that lord signed a treaty. After completing his task, Lord Zhuang and his official returned to their own state. On the way, the Lord asked the official, “1 don’t remember having shown you any special favor. Why were you so determined to protect me?”
The official smiled and said, “1 was the one whose hat strap was snapped by your concubine.” On the other hand, if you rejoice in other people’s misfortunes and make known their shortcomings, whether deliberately or not, what kind of retribution will you receive?
During the Spring and Autumn Period, the State of Qi was a large country. Once when it held a large ceremony, many other states sent ambassadors to attend. Because it was a splendid occasion, the mother of the Lord Qin of Qi came out to watch from the city gate. When she saw the ambassadors of Jin, Lu, Wei, Cao appear, she could not help but burst into laughter. Why? Because, by a strange coincidence, the ambassador of Jin was blind, the ambassador of Lu was bald, the ambassador of Wei was lame, and the ambassador of Cao was a hunchback. Embarrassed and furious at being mocked, these four ambassadors returned to their states and reported how they had been insulted. The four states of Jin, Lu, Wei, and Cao then joined together and attacked the state of Qi, defeating the Qi troops so badly that they were reduced to wretched misery . That was a disaster caused by making fun of others’ shortcomings.
善 相 勸 ， 德 皆 建
shan xiang quan
de jie jian
好事 互相 規勸、勉勵
品德 都 建立
good one other to urge on
virtue all to establish
If we urge one another toward goodness, then we all will develop our virtue.
過 不 規 ， 道 兩 虧
guo bu gui
dao liang kui
過錯 不 規勸
道德 兩人 虧損
faults not to remonstrate
morality both to lose
If we fail to correct one another’s faults, hen we all will be deficient in morality.
凡 取 與 ， 貴 分 曉
fan qu yu
gui fen xiao
凡是 取得 給與
注重 弄分明 搞清楚
whatever to get to give
to emphasize to be distinct to be clear
It is important to be clear and distinct on what you give to and take from others.
與 宜 多 ， 取 宜 少
yu yi duo
qu yi shao
給與 應該 多
取得 應該 少
to give should, ought to more
to take should, ought to less
When giving you should be generous; when taking you should take a little less.
Friendship is based on more than affection; a sense of duty should also exist between friends. A friendship based solely on affection will be strong only for a while; the good feelings will not last long. Not only is this true of friendships, it also applies to the relationship between kings and officials of old and between managers and workers of modern society. Even between husband and wife, there must be a sense of duty to make the relationship long-lasting and harmonious. There is a saying: The relationship between superior people is as plain as water. The relationship between petty people is as sweet as honey. Who could eat honey day after day and not get tired of it? Water is plain and flavorless, yet we cannot go without it for a single day.
All of the above relationships are based on duty, and “duty” is defined as what is appropriate. What is the most appropriate way to act? It is to urge one another toward goodness and correct one another’s faults. If we merely love and protect our friends but fail to exhort them to change their faults, we will have been lacking in integrity .Even worse, due to our leniency our friends may make one mistake after another until they are totally ruined. Who is then at fault?
Once there was a mother who adored and spoiled her son. When he was little, he would sometimes fight or steal, but she would defend him, saying, “He’s still young and doesn’t understand anything. Anyhow, he hasn’t committed any serious wrongdoing.” She was always lenient with him. The older he grew, the more he stole and the craftier he became. Eventually the mother had no way to discipline him. She could only let him do as he pleased; she even helped cover up for him. Finally the son committed a major crime and was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he requested his mother to feed him her breast milk. When his request was granted, he fiercely bit off his mother’s nipple. She nearly fainted from the pain. The criminal also wept and said to his mother, “If only you could have felt the pain earlier and disciplined me when I was little, would I have ended up like this? Your love has ruined me!”
Conversely, if we speak when we are supposed to, not only do we maintain our integrity, we cause others to develop their morality, resulting in blessings for both sides. If we are able to exhort and remonstrate with others, we have both talent and virtue. If we can accept others’ remonstrance, we are both virtuous and tolerant.
Emperor Guangwu, whose reign was in the middle of the Han Dynasty, was an example of virtue and tolerance. Once the emperor went out hunting and was so engrossed in the pleasure of the hunt that he did not notice the time. When his carriage reached the east gate of the city, it was already midnight. The guard refused to open the gate. The following morning, the guard bluntly admonished the emperor for two faults: first, knowing the rule and breaking it; second, hunting without restraint. Emperor Guangwu, being a wise and great ruler, did not get angry, but openly acknowledged his mistakes and presented the guard with a hundred bolts of cloth to reward him for his dutifulness.
Earlier we mentioned the greatest and most talented emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Taizong, and his minister Weizheng, who was known for his frankness and courage to criticize. Emperor Taizong appreciated Weizheng’s faithful adherence to goodness, and Weizheng admired Emperor Taizong’s magnanimous character. Therefore, whenever the emperor’s words or behavior were the slightest bit inappropriate, Weizheng would speak up right away and the emperor would humbly accept his remonstrances.
Emperor Taizong had an empress, Chang Sun, who was also a worthy helper to him. One time the emperor obtained a precious young falcon. He adored the bird and held it in his hands and played with it, trying to teach it some tricks. Right then, word came that Weizheng was requesting to see him. The emperor thought, “What a bother! He always comes at the most inconvenient time! Once the old man sees the bird, he’ll go on and on about how trifling with amusements is a waste of energy.” Thereupon the emperor hid the young falcon inside his sleeve, thinking to quickly send Weizheng off on some pretext.
He didn’t realize that Weizheng’s sharp eyes had noticed his movement, and that the official deliberately brought up large and small matters one after another. It seemed that he would never finish. Taizong was getting anxious, but he could not refuse to listen. When Weizheng finally took his leave, Taizong let out a sigh of relief. However, the little falcon had already died of suffocation. Although Taizong was regretful, he dared not blame Weizheng because he wanted so badly to be a worthy ruler who could accept criticism. In the end, he had to give up the hobby of raising young birds.
Another time when Princess Chang Le, Emperor Taizong’s most beloved daughter of Empress Chang Sun, was to get married. The emperor ordered especially elaborate gifts and ceremonies. In fact, her dowry surpassed that of Princess Yong Le, who was not the Empress’ own daughter. As usual, Weizheng had something to say: ” Although your affections differ, they are of equal rank as princesses and you should not ignore the rules of etiquette.” Taizong had no choice but to listen. When he returned to the palace and told the empress, to his surprise she was not disappointed, but rather praised the minister, saying, “In the past I did not understand why Your Majesty respected Weizheng so highly, but after hearing his exhortation, I realize that Weizheng is truly worthy of being an important official of the country .”
Another time, Taizong had had it with Weizheng’s merciless admonishments. He left the court and returned to his palace quarters in fury, saying, “I’ve got to take that old country bumpkin’s life, and that’s that!” Empress Chang Sun asked in haste, “Who are you talking about?” The emperor, with anger and indignation, replied, “Who else? That stubborn old fellow Weizheng! He always insults me to my face in court. Where has my dignity as the Emperor gone?” The empress silently withdrew, changed into formal ceremonial dress, and stood respectfully on the courtyard steps. The emperor was totally puzzled. The empress said, “I’ve heard that if the emperor is noble and wise, his ministers will naturally be forthright. Today Weizheng was so frank all because Your Majesty is noble and wise. How could I not offer congratulations?” Once he heard the praise, Taizong laughed and understood.
With her wisdom, the empress not only saved face for her husband, but more importantly, saved old Weizheng’s life, allowing him to continue to exhort the emperor . The reason Taizong was such an eminent emperor was that he had a worthy empress who offered gentle advice, and he could listen to his worthy minister’s straightforward exhortations. This wise emperor, virtuous empress, and worthy minister shall all be remembered in history as complementing one another. Is this not proof of the verse, “If we urge one another toward goodness, then we will all develop our virtue”?
將 加 人 ， 先 問 己
jiang jia ren
xian wen ji
打算要 放在上面 別人
首先 詢問 自己
be about to to add on others
first to ask myself
Before we treat others a certain way, first we should question ourselves:
己 不 欲 ， 即 速 已
ji bu yu
ji su yi
自己 不 希望、想要
就 迅速 停止
self do not want
then quickly to stop
Would I want to be treated that way? If not, then do not do it to others.
恩 欲 報 ， 怨 欲 忘
en yu bao
yuan yu wang
恩德 必須 報答
仇怨 必須 忘記
kindness must to repay
grudges, resentment must to forget
Never fail to return others kindness, but do not be one who holds grudges.
報 怨 短 ， 報 恩 長
bao yuan duan
bao en chang
回報 仇怨 減少
回報 恩德 增長
to repay grudges to shorten
to repay kindness to extend
Let grudges be quickly forgotten, let kindness be cherished forever.
Zeng Zi once summarized the doctrines of his teacher Confucius by saying, “The Master’s teaching does not go beyond loyalty and reciprocity .” How could loyalty and reciprocity encompass all the principles of dealing with people and handling affairs? It seems too simple! Actually, this is a common truth which a three-year-old child knows, but a ninety-year-old man finds difficult to practice. How do we define loyalty and reciprocity? Loyalty means doing your best. Reciprocity means not doing to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself.
What does it mean to do your best? Let us look at the structure of the characters. “Loyalty” is composed of the characters for “middle” and “heart/center.” To stay in the middle in what we do, without being biased or partial, is loyalty .If we do not favor any side, including our own, then we are doing our best to fulfill our basic human duties.
The character for “reciprocity” is composed of the characters for “like/as” and “mind/heart.” It means to always think on behalf of others, love others as oneself, and maintain the attitude that, “When others are drowning, it is as if I am drowning; when others are starving, it is as if I am starving.” Although reciprocity is a Confucian concept, it is fully realized only in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches us not only to regard all people as equal, but to regard all living beings as equal. Not only must we refrain from doing to others what we wouldn’t want done to ourselves, we must do whatever we can to give living beings what they want. This is “great kindness for those with whom we have no affinities, and great compassion of being one with all.” When we see living beings undergoing suffering which they loathe, we feel as if we are suffering with them, and we try to alleviate their suffering in an egalitarian manner. Regardless of how close to or far from living beings we are we bestow upon them equally the things that bring happiness. When we resolve to eliminate the sufferings of living beings and give them every sort of joy, we are in effect resolving to seek wisdom, acknowledging our past mistakes and starting anew. We are making the aspiration for Bodhi.
(Bodhi is a Sanskrit word meaning enlightenment or wisdom.) This is the aspiration of a Bodhisattva, and it plants the holy cause for Buddha- and Bodhisattvahood. We could be considered Bodhisattvas in the causal stage. To become Bodhisattvas in the stage of fruition, we must never for a moment forget our Bodhi resolve, and we must at all times practice the Bodhisattva conduct in a down-to-earth manner .
Once we are born into the world, we come into contact with others, and giving and taking naturally take place. In the process, there are inevitable feelings of like and dislike. People get entangled in the bonds of love and hate, and there is endless affliction and suffering. This is because wisdom has been buried and cannot manifest. If we wish to renounce the conditions of love and hate, we must first be able to accept things.
During the Liang Dynasty (of the Five Dynasties Era in China), there was a monk named Qi Ci who was tall and had big ears and an even bigger belly. All day long he went around carrying a big cloth bag and wearing a big grin on his face, collecting donations. Everyone called him the Cloth Bag Monk, and after a while his real name was forgotten. If people gave him food, clothing, or articles, regardless of whether they were good or poor quality, he would put them in his bag. Strangely enough, the bag was never too full and never less than full; it was neither big nor small, neither fat nor thin-it stayed the same.
People asked him, “Hey, Cloth Bag Monk, what treasures have you got in your bag? How come it never gets full?” With a smile the Cloth Bag Monk would reply, “This bag is like people’s minds, which are never satisfied. It can never be filled.” One day, he met the Venerable Baofu and asked for a donation of one cent. The Venerable Baofu decided to test him and asked, “If you can give a good answer, I’ll give it to you.”
The Cloth Bag Monk smiled, set his bag down, and stood there with his hands on his hips. The Venerable Baofu asked, “How would you describe living beings?” The Cloth Bag Monk smiled and picked up his bag. “What is the essential meaning of the Buddhadharma?” asked the Venerable Baofu. The Cloth Bag Monk smiled and set his bag down again. Then Venerable Baofu knew that he was a highly qualified Sanghan who had enlightened to the Way .
After the Cloth Bag Monk passed into stillness, people discovered from a verse on a broken-down wall that he was Maitreya Bodhisattva, who will be the next to achieve Buddhahood in this world. The Cloth Bag Monk taught Dharma through his actions. He was telling us that we first have to be able to take all the things of this world; if we cannot take them, we will not be able to renounce them-then how could we talk about transcending the world, entering the Way, and becoming a Buddha?
What does it mean to be able to take things? It means to do a good job of fulfilling one’s human obligations. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas all started out as people. If we aren’t able to fulfill our human obligations, how can we attain Buddhahood? There is a saying, “The understanding of worldly affairs is genuine knowledge. The skill of developing good human relations is comparable to that of writing an essay .” Once we perfect ourselves as people, we will have no hindrance in whatever we do. Then how could we not succeed in cultivation? On the other hand, if we say we’re cultivating, but do a lot of unreasonable things that make others afflicted, we would be fortunate if people didn’t retreat from their Bodhi resolve-how could we encourage people to bring forth the resolve?
Therefore, Bodhisattvas cultivate in the world and attain a transcendental fruition. First they work on human relations, and then they cut off ties of love and enmity .We shouldn’t try to skip stages or to fly before we can walk. Before we have cultivated worldly blessings and virtue, how can we expect to attain transcendental enlightenment? The cultivation of worldly blessings and virtue happens through practicing humaneness. To be humane means to be human, to be a person with an attitude of loyalty and reciprocity. As a human, our first priority is to understand how to give and take, and to be clear about love and enmity ..
What does that mean? To understand how to give and take means, as an earlier line of text says, that “when giving you should be generous; when taking you should take a little less.” It also means to “distribute the wealth to help the needy .” This is a joyful practice which makes both the giver and the receiver happy. In order to practice “distributing wealth to help the needy,” we must first live frugally ourselves. Otherwise, even if we overcame our greed, we would not have any surplus to give to the needy.
To be clear about love and enmity, our method should be: “When giving, think nothing of it. When receiving, do not forget the kindness done to you.” A saying goes, Having received kindness equal to a drop of water, you should try to repay it with a bubbling spring. Our resolve to reciprocate should be long lasting. When we do others a favor, we should do so impartially and think nothing of it. Not only should we forget about it, but we should never demand that others reciprocate the favor. Otherwise, even if nothing disastrous happens, we will not be able to live in peace.
Being clear about love and enmity at another level simply means, “to repay kindness with kindness, and to repay enmity with justice.” It does not mean to be lenient with people no matter what. The repayment of kindness with kindness does not refer to a one-time gift or favor; rather it involves mutual exhortation so that both parties grow in virtue and reap boundless blessings in the future. Therefore the text says, “Kindness should be cherished forever.” To repay enmity with justice means to let the public judicial system decide how to handle the matter, instead of dealing with it personally and seeking vengeance in an underhanded fashion. Therefore, the text says, “Let grudges be quickly forgotten.”
Do sages also seek revenge? Sages have no personal grudges. However, on rare occasions when they are unable to teach and transform evil people, they must see to it that these individuals receive their just punishment, so that the society will not be endangered or terrorized. Such is the manner in which superior people respond to enmity. If they did not respond, they would not be acting in justice. In actuality, even if wrongdoers escape visible punishment at the hands of the law, they cannot escape their karmic retribution, which is invisible.
In general, the great men of old would not slander those with whom they had severed relations. This exemplifies the principle of reciprocity as well as being clear about love and enmity .If people slandered their former friends or forgot about past favors in light of new grievances, enmity would deepen day by day, planting the seeds of turmoil. Consider the following story of the elephant who sought revenge:
Once there was an man in India who owned a very obedient pet elephant. Every day when the elephant felt thirsty, he would walk to a small river. Along the way, he would pass by a tailor’s shop, and the tailor would feed the elephant some tidbits. One day, the elephant inserted his trunk into the window as usual, wanting food, but the tailor happened not to have any food at hand and could not interrupt what he was doing, so he ignored the elephant. The elephant, perhaps thinking that the tailor had not noticed him, banged on the window with his trunk, making a racket.
The tailor turned around and pricked the elephant’s trunk with his needle, and the elephant, smarting in pain, quickly curled up his trunk and left-Walking to the river, he drank his fill of cool, refreshing water, then filled his trunk with water and walked back to the tailor’s shop. Sticking his trunk through the window, the elephant sprayed the tailor until he was soaked. The fine cloth on his table also got wet.
As highly intelligent beings, we should not be like the elephant, who, not knowing how to forgive or reflect upon himself, forgot about the kindness done him in the past after one unpleasant experience.
Vegetable Root Discourses has a saying, ” For those who reflect upon themselves, every situation serves as a medicine. For those who complain about others, every thought is a spear. ” If people could always look within themselves and be considerate of others, not doing to others what they would not like done to themselves, they will naturally open a path of wholesome goodness and stop all evil at its source. In such a situation, how could there be ceaseless turmoil, wars, and disasters?
待 婢 僕 ， 身 貴 端
dai bi pu
shen gui duan
對待 女傭 男傭
本身 重要 端正
to treat female employees male employees
oneself important to be proper and just
With our employees the most important thing is that our own behavior be upright and proper.
雖 貴 端 ， 慈 而 寬
sui gui duan
ci er kuan
雖然 重要地 端正
仁慈的 而且 寬厚的
even though important to be proper and just
kind and forgiving
Although it is important to be proper, we should also be kind and forgiving.
勢 服 人 ， 心 不 然
shi fu ren
xin bu ran
權勢 折服 別人
內心 不 這樣
force to submit, to rule others
mind, heart not so
If we try to rule others by force, we will never over win their hearts.
理 服 人 ， 方 無 言
li fu ren
fang wu yan
道理 折服 別人
才 沒有 話(口實)
reason to lead others
then won’t speech, excuse
If we lead them with principles, then they won’t feel oppressed and abused.
During the Ming Dynasty in China, an author named Hong Zichen integrated the essence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism into Discourses Regarding the Roots of Vegetables. In this publication, Hong Zichen expounded immensely profound and wise principles with regard to interacting with people and things, to maintaining a household and to handling mundane business. He mentioned in the book that, “When family members make a mistake, we should not become angry and give up too easily. If an issue is difficult to discuss, then use other matters to allude to the issue at hand. If family members do not understand immediately, then warn them again at another time. The model for families should resemble the spring wind that melts deep-freezes or the balmy air that thaws ice.”
Mr. Chu’s Proverbs on Managing the Household also said, ” A household established on miserliness will not last.” This is to say that one must be generous and tolerant in treating others and running a home to make family ties lasting. Although you should be generous in maintaining a home and treating people, you must also have some strict rules that ensure levels of seniority between the old and the young and differentiation between insiders and outsiders. At the same time, Mr. Chu’s Proverbs on Managing the Household emphasized that “We should apply serious methods and stern words toward elders, youngsters, insiders and outsiders.” Some people may treat others generously but make the mistake of being too lenient, thus blurring the line between insiders and outsiders. In contrast, some people speak and behave in an upright manner, but make the mistake of being too severe, thus causing people to respectfully keep their distance. The middle way in conducting oneself properly and treating others generously and harmoniously, is to regard family members as if they were guests and not be overly intimate.
During the Han Dynasty in China, there was a benevolent government official named Liu Kuan. His cultivation was first-rate; not only was he tolerant and mild-tempered, but he was also very generous and kind to the people. Whenever a local resident violated the law, he refused to use the more severe forms of punishment. At the most, he would lightly spank the offender a few times with a whip made of rushes. Once when Liu was traveling in his oxcart dressed in civilian clothes, a farmer blocked Liu’s path and insisted that the ox Liu was riding was the one the farmer had lost. Liu didn’t even argue with him; instead Liu stepped off the cart and walked home. A few days later, the farmer found his ox and realized that the ox he had claimed belonged to the high-ranking officer Liu Kuan, so he rushed to return Liu’ s ox, even kneeling to apologize. Liu warmly said to him, “Sometimes things appear similar; mistakes are bound to happen. Since you didn’t do this on purpose, what crime have you committed? Get up and run along!” That time, the farmer didn’t even receive a light beating.
Since Liu cultivated excellently, his wife wanted to test his temper. One morning, Liu had put on his formal clothing in preparation for a meeting with the emperor. At that time, Liu’s wife told an elderly maid- servant to serve a bowl of hot soup to Liu for breakfast, but Liu’s wife intentionally knocked the soup over so that it spilt onto Liu’s formal robe. The housemaid was alarmed and the wife thought Liu would certainly be outraged this time. To their surprise, not only did Liu remain unruffled, he earnestly inquired after the elderly woman, saying, “Did you burn your hand?” Liu then went to change into another robe before heading to the emperor’s court. Liu consistently treated his servants and his citizens with kindness and tolerance. One who supervises with kindness and tolerance receives lasting support from subordinates. On the other hand, one who uses force and intimidation to oppress people will only make others submit temporarily in fear, but will not win their hearts over for a lifetime..
In the past, Lord Ding of the State of Lu had praised Dongye Bi’s skill in charioteering to Yan Hui. However, Yan Hui, who had received the mind-transmission from Confucius, replied, “There is no question about Dongye Bi ‘s skill, but I’m concerned that his horses will collapse at any moment.” Lord Ding was quite upset. Incredibly though, three days later, two of Dongye Bi ‘s horses fell; thus Lord Ding scurried to invite Yan Hui back. When Lord Ding asked Yan Hui how he was able to predict the fall of Dongye Bi ‘s horses, Yan Hui answered, “In the past, Da Shun was best known for how well he used the strength of his citizenry because he never drained their energy. Zao Fu was reputed to be the best equestrian because he never drained his horses’ energy. Thus, Da Shun never wore out his citizens while Zao Fu never wore out his horses.
Although Dongye Bi ‘s riding style is technically correct, he rides all day without a break. Even when Dongye Bi ‘s horses are tired, he makes them do this and that rather than let them rest. Therefore I guessed that his horses would not last.” Yan Hui further expostulated, “Birds that are cornered will peck, beasts that are pushed will bite, horses that are treated harshly will collapse, people who are pressured will lie and do all kinds of awful things! Historically, an outburst never fails to occur as a result of oppression.”
同 是 人 ， 類 不 齊
tong shi ren lei bu qi
同樣 是 人
種類 不 一律的
alike are human beings
kinds, types not equal
Although we are all born as humans, we vary in sort.
流 俗 眾 ， 仁 者 希
liu su zhong ren zhe xi
隨順 世俗 很多的
仁德的 的人 很少
to flow, to stray banal commonalities a lot
humane one rare
Ordinary beings are many; noble and humane beings are few.
果 仁 者 ， 人 多 畏
guo ren zhe
ren duo wei
真正 仁德 的人
一般人 大多 敬畏
true humane one
people most to fear
Everyone reveres those who are truly humane and virtuous,
言 不 諱 ， 色 不 媚
yan bu hui
se bu mei
言辭 不 隱蓋、私藏
臉色 不 巴結討好
words not lead to conceal
physical appearance not to flatter
Since they speak straightforwardly and selflessly and never appear to grovel or fawn.
Since there are as many people in the world as motes of dust, invariably people differ in shape, appearance, life span, race and name. Each individual possesses a particular type of mind and nature as well as a variety of views and knowledge. From such differentiation, we further produce all sorts of desires and joy, will and behavior, comportment and manner. People adore certain individuals and detest others. People respect certain individuals while disdaining others. In actuality, these myriad variations all originate from a single thought. From our mind and nature, we produce views and knowledge. From views and knowledge we give rise to will and conduct. Our will and conduct influence our inclinations and comportment. Our inclinations and comportment affect our congenital shape, appearance, life span, race and name, which further affect the mind and nature, developing new views and knowledge, will and conduct, thus leading to dissimilar experiences after birth.
During his life Confucius loathed spineless, fawning sycophants, but he particularly detested being around those phony gentlemen who appeared respectable. Thus Confucius said, “I hate purple, for it robs from the color red. ” “Imposters are the thieves of virtue.”
Did Confucius really hate the color purple? Actually it’s merely an analogy. Purple is a mixed color containing the color red, one of the three primary colors, yet it has clearly lost the original red proper. The color purple nevertheless leads others to mistake it for a variation of red. Similarly, hypocrites who appear respectful, wearing the mask of a “softie” and carrying the sign of a “gentleman” actually warp humaneness and distort righteousness-in reality they practice sycophancy and flattery. Most people cannot discern black from white; thus they fail to be cautious. In fact, people invariably consider those truly unique, independent and straightforward individuals as eccentrics and praise and emulate hypocrites instead. Thus, Confucius deemed those pretending to be honorable individuals more dangerous than scoundrels that people naturally despise upon first glance; fraudulent gentlemen are actually charlatans. Without first eliminating pretenders, we cannot rectify our foundation, purify our origin and receive the merit of straightening people’s minds here in the world.
When Confucius received the emperor’s mandate to be the Minister of Crime in the state of Lu, the first thing he did when he arrived on the j ob was to execute Minister Shao Zhen Mo, who with an intractable heart and defiant conduct craftily debated the compliant and gossiped with those he favored. Confucius, move had the effect of “killing a chicken to warn the monkeys.” In less than three months, the state of Lu was well governed; wicked and immoral individuals no longer existed. It was reputed that during that time, “no one picked up lost items; no one closed their doors at night.”
Lu’s neighboring state, Qi, was afraid Lu would become so strong that Qi would not be able to invade and pillage it, so Qi sent a troupe of female performers over. High minister Ji Sun Si accepted them and stealthily sent them to the King of Lu. The King was so infatuated with these women that he didn’t appear in court to administer the state’s affairs for three days. Confucius was so heartbroken that he resigned, returned home, then began to travel to various states. Unfortunately, Confucius wasted half of his life without finding a wise ruler with vision and courage willing to employ him. It wasn’t until he was near death that Confucius realized that he didn’t have much time left, so he returned home in disappointment. He condensed all his lifelong ideals into the Annals of Spring and Autumn, which was a critique of political affairs. Furthermore, he poured the last of his lifeblood into educating and promoting the younger generations so that they would inherit his ideals.
This is evidence that many people in this world follow the banal, while so few individuals are truly humane and virtuous. Although humane and virtuous individuals are rare, their straightforward and wholesome speech, their fearlessness in the face of authority and their attitude of munificence and selflessness will win people’s respect and make rascals afraid. This is why although no wise ruler employed Confucius and scoundrels often presented him with difficulties during his travels; nonetheless, the heads of states and members of the nobility all competed to serve Confucius as an honored guest, hoping to win the reputation of “one who honors a sage.” Similarly, malicious ministers and criminals dared not publicly kill and harm Confucius either, fearing the disgraceful title of “one who injures a sage.”
Before Confucius entered politics, the state of Lu was controlled by three families-the Meng Sun clan, the Shu Sun clan and the Ji Sun clan–while the king was practically a puppet. Yang Hu of the Meng Sun family had huge ambitions and in-depth deliberations. He initially joined the Ji Sun family who dominated the state of Lu, then through flattery, favors, and competence, Yang Hu attained heavy responsibilities from the head of the household, Ji Sun Yi Ru, becoming the household manager. When the elder Ji Sun passed away, Yang Hu climbed on top of the new head of the clan, Ji Ping Zi. When Ji Ping Zi died, Yang Hu not only con trolled the Ji Sun clan, but also suppressed the other two families by intimidation, further threatening the king of Lu and single-handedly controlling the affairs of state.
Hoping to win the hearts of the citizenry on the one hand, and needing someone to assist him in stabilizing the political situation on the other, Yang Hu visited Confucius several times in the hopes of obtaining his help. Confucius knew that Yang Hu could see talent better than the king of Lu and was a more decisive leader besides. However, Confucius had always detested those who cheat their rulers and overstep superiors, how could he compromise his integrity for the sake of being employed in an important position? For that reason, Confucius always invented an excuse to avoid Yang Hu.
Once when Yang Hu personally paid a visit, the guard answered as usual, “He’s not here.” When Yang Hu was about to get in his carriage and leave, however, Confucius purposely strummed his instrument and made music, disclosing to Yang Hu that Confucius had been there all along but simply didn’t want to see Yang Hu. At another time, Confucius traveled to the state of Chen right after the state of Chu had invaded and occupied the capital of Chen. The western gate to the city was broken then, so the Chu int1:Uders ordered the people of Chen to fix it.
According to the rites of Zhou, a passenger in a cart must stand and bow if he sees two people on the road; if the passenger sees three or more people, he must get off the cart. When Confucius’ carriage passed the gate, Confucius was unlike himself. Typically polite and observant of all the rites, this time Confucius ignored the people on both sides as if they were invisible. When Confucius’ disciples questioned him, Confucius painfully explained, “The citizens of Chen are unworthy of being bowed to. Why? At first they didn’t know their state was about to be annihilated, so that was ignorance. When the citizens knew that their state was about to be dissolved, they couldn’t unite and fight, which was disloyalty. When their state had been defeated, they could no longer die in battle, which was cowardice. Now they even help their enemy to repair the city. How can they be worthy of respect?
At this point of the story, some people may say that Confucius was pretentious and ill-mannered, or consider Confucius to lack compassion. You should know that humane people may be compassionate and nondiscriminatory , yet they still distinguish between love and hate, intimacy and distance, which are manifested through their conduct and decisions. Those who really understand propriety will cherish those who are kind, detest those who are baneful, draw close to those who are worthy, and distance themselves from those who are failures. If people only work on superficialities and treat everyone the same regardless of their wholesomeness, unwholesomeness, right or wrong, then they are not humane and wise ones, but imposters.
Therefore, even the extremely humane and wise Buddha taught his disciples to ignore evil-natured bhikshus. The remarkably kind and compassionate Bodhisattvas will also appear as “angry-faced Vajras” before evil beings. The Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ silent treatment and angry glares are utterly unlike most people’s use of rejections and punishment. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas educate from the opposite side, shocking baneful individuals into realizing their own faults and reflecting on why they weren’t welcomed, thus finally correcting their mistakes and becoming good. This is also why Confucius ignored Yang Hu and expressed disgust for the citizens of Chen who had just lost their own state. We absolutely cannot use worldly social etiquette to criticize Confucius, judging him to be too ostentatious. We should not question whether Confucius is violating his own pedagogy of “teaching those from all walks of life,” and judge him to be uncompassionate. In actuality, Confucius was able to maintain the rites of righteousness while practicing the compassion of “teaching by not teaching.”
In today’s Dharma-ending age, the ways of civility are decreasing while the ways of the scoundrels are increasing. People get worthy people mixed up with fools. Individuals cannot distinguish between good and evil; sometimes they even mistake what’s right for what’s wrong, what’s black for what’s white. The society ridicules poverty but not prostitution while politically, “superiors and subordinates mutually exchange and raid benefits.” Government workers don’t understand what public servants mean; at best they assume the bureaucratic style of flattering superiors and oppressing subordinates, at worst they collude with government contractors, pilfering goods and committing crimes, failing to care about ordinary people’s benefits and lives. They say, “Those who recognize the signs of the times are the outstanding ones”; then they hoard and smuggle, constantly engaging in unmentionable activities, even pulling others down with them. If those up above don’t accept bribes, then subordinates complain that the higher-up’s are “blocking their road to gold.” If those below do not accept payoffs, then their superiors blame these workers for “failing to appreciate recognition.” The trend is so prevalent that people can hardly help themselves; thus resulting in bribes from the lower end of the hierarchy on up and favors curried on down the line. Superiors and subordinates conspire to fall for the same filth while both bureaucrats and merchants are delighted.
During the time of the Eastern Han dynasty , a scholar named Yang Zhen had recommended Wang Mi for the position of the Cangyi County Magistrate, because Wang had talent. One day, Yang passed by Cangyi, so Wang Mi waited until midnight when Yang Zhen was alone in his guest house to present specially prepared gold and other gifts. Yang Zhen politely thanked Wang but declined the gifts, saying, “I did not recommend you because I sought repayment. Furthermore, if anyone finds out about your action, it will be detrimental for both of us!” Wang said, “It’s midnight; no one will find out! ” Yang sternly declared, “Heaven knows, earth knows, you know and I know: How can you say no one knows?” Wang was so ashamed that he hastily left with his gold and gifts.
Today, open and honest gentlemen such as Yang Zhen are few and far between! If we cannot dwell in humanity and follow righteousness, but let the winds of time blow us around and chase after every step of change, then even if we aren’t crooked villains, we are, at the least, hypocrites who’ve lost the moral fortitude of the upright and civil ones. On the other hand, if we singularly hold fast to incorruptibility and abandon the job of teaching bucolics and villains, then we lose the kindness and compassion of humane gentlemen. Therefore, not only must we cultivate on our own and save ourselves, but we must rectify the trends of the world and shoulder the responsibility of teaching so as to transform the world’s customs. To rectify the trends of the world, we must begin by rectifying the human mind. To teach and transform the world, we must focus on teaching and transforming human nature too. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas teach and transform using both compassion and wisdom while past and present worthy sages model wisdom and virtue; how could we not constantly emulate and practice their dharmas?
能 親 仁 ， 無 限 好
neng qin ren
wu xian hao
能夠 親近 有道德
be able to draw near humane
unlimited, immeasurable good
To follow the truly humane will bring immeasurable good.
德 日 進 ， 過 日 少
de ri jin
guo ri shao
品德 每日 進步
過錯 每日 減少
virtue daily to progress
mistakes daily to reduce
Virtue will grow day by day, day by day our mistakes will be fewer.
不 親 仁 ， 無 限 害
bu qin ren
wu xian hai
不能夠 親近 有道德
don’t to draw near humane
unlimited, immeasurable harm
To not follow the truly humane will bring immeasurable harm.
小 人 進 ， 百 事 壞
xiao ren jin
bai shi huai
petty people to come forward
hundred matters (everything) to be ruined
Unworthy people come forward; everything will be ruined.
Earlier we mentioned that Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty had an honorable queen, Zhang Sun, as well as a blunt and loyal minister, Wei Zheng. Not only was Queen Zhang Sun virtuous and respectable, but she was very knowledgeable too. However, she never flaunted her talent out of arrogance or improperly interfered with politics. Furthermore, she never used her position to indulge in extravagances or covetously harm the emperor’s concubines.
Queen Zhang Sun was so modest and laconic that Emperor Taizong did not discover the queen’s Guide for Women among her mementos until her death. The emperor couldn’t help but become emotional over this discovery. Why? This work had collected past and present female role models and compiled imperatives encouraging kindness. The handbook was succinct and lucid. During her lifetime, no one knew that Queen Zhang Sun had written this Guide for Women; therefore we know that she didn’t author this manual to parade her writing skill or to seek praise and reputation. This guide was strictly a product of the accumulated lessons of a woman’s life time of quiet cultivation and propriety in action.
During the time that she led the six imperial harems, she served as a role model. Imprudent and boastful people, incidents of jealousy and disarray were absent in these palaces. Queen Zhang Sun’s remarkably virtuous conduct made her an exemplary archetype for women. The Guide for Women was widely circulated after her death. Up until the Qing Dynasty, women in imperial palaces were required to read this manual! Even in the current era of equality between the sexes, modern women may still find this handbook a worthwhile reference for noteworthy rationale and principles behind some of its arcane rites and rules.
Next, we’ll talk about Wei Zheng, whom Emperor Taizong feared yet respected. Although Emperor Taizong was a holy and understanding son of the heavens who accepted suggestions humbly, Wei Zheng was still glad about and grateful for the emperor’s partiality and trust. Consequently, Wei Zheng dedicated himself wholeheartedly, providing a thorough critique on any matter that benefited other countries or harmed the monarch. Emperor Taizong always let Wei Zheng speak his mind too. Since the path of free speech existed, worthy people were attracted to this ruler, and the Tang Dynasty had no choice but to flourish.
After Wei Zheng’s death, Emperor Taizong personally arrived and grieved in pain. The emperor failed to govern national affairs for five days and mandated an elaborate funeral for Wei Zheng. The just and incorruptible Wei Zheng also had a virtuous and fair wife. Mrs. Wei actually rejected the Emperor’s bequest of honor, saying, “Zheng was typically economical and simple. If we perform the funeral of the highest grade, then that would go against the wish of the deceased. ” As a result, only cloth carriages were used to transport the casket.
On the day of the funeral procession, the emperor ordered all ministers and officials to accompany the casket out to the countryside while he ascended atop a tower to watch the funeral, crying uncontrollably. Emperor Taizong said, “Each person has three mirrors. Using the mirror of copper (glass mirrors didn’t exist yet), one can dress appropriately. Using the mirror of history, one recognizes the successes and failures of the past and present. Using the mirror of people, one examines one’s own merits and faults. I always keep these three mirrors around to prevent mistakes and negligence. With the departure of Wei Zheng, I have lost one of my most precious mirrors!” It is no wonder that during Emperor Taizong’s lifetime he had no stirrings among his harems and capable sages filled his imperial court.
It was not only through his own competence that this Emperor led the Tang Dynasty to peace and prosperity. Historically, there were plenty of gifted monarchs; however, there were few rulers who were virtuous and wise like Emperor Taizong. There was only a handful of heads of state who knew to cherish an exemplary queen and accept a minister’s admonition. Thus, it was no surprise that Emperor Taizong built an empire that reached heights incomparable in the world and throughout history.
For us ordinary people who want to make progress in cultivating virtue and further our aspirations, we must also “draw near humane ones and distance ourselves from scoundrels.” The Analects states, “similar objects tend to gather together”; in other words, “birds of a feather flock together.” If we do the deeds of civilized characters, then civil persons will naturally draw near us; when humane characters draw near us, our virtues advance. In contrast, if we do the deeds of scandalous ones, then villains will naturally draw near us; when villains draw near us, then our virtues deteriorate gradually. Therefore, virtuous people always have good teachers, beneficial friends and helpful partners, while unscrupulous scoundrels usually have evil teachers, harmful friends, and sullen seducers.
Who’s considered humane and who’s considered scandalous, how- ever? This appeared to have been one of the favorite debate topics for Confucius and his students. The Confucian Analects and the Words for the Household repeatedly iterated these definitions. For example, once Yan Hill inquired about the definition of a scoundrel. Confucius explained that a crook was “One who purposely depicts others’ good deeds as bad, yet merrily considers oneself flawlessly eloquent. A scoundrel is calculating and endangering, yet one considers himself exceptionally intelligent. One sees others make mistakes and delights in the disaster. One doesn’t try to learn humbly but actually laughs at others’ ignorance. These are some of the typical habits of a scoundrel.” Then what are the outstanding qualities of a civil being? Confucius answered, “The civil one uses action as his language whereas the scoundrel relies only on words. Thus, civil persons will mutually criticize and compare according to reason and pertinence of the issue. Privately they value and respect each other. On the other hand, scoundrels cooperate and depend on one another while committing crime. Privately they treat each other like enemies.”
In summary, the biggest difference between civilized humanitarians and scoundrels is that “Civil ones are acclimatized to justice while uncivil ones are acclimatized to self-interest.” In other words, one maintains an open and straightforward heart, safeguarding integrity while the other dwells selfishly in narrow-mindedness, caring only for one’s benefits. When gentlemen gather, for instance, they always consult one another and encourage each other to be good. When rascals meet up, however, they always collaborate to do evil. Thus, although we speak of equality among living beings and “love of all beings,” we should be clear about good and evil, using “drawing near humaneness” as an anchor. The principle of loving living beings is basically the principle of maintaining equitable kindness; to draw near civility is an expedient act that concurs with principle. If you intend to be a humanitarian, you must conduct yourself wisely. A humane heart and wise conduct are sufficient to prop up heaven and earth and enter the brilliance of the four seas.
不 力 行 ， 但 學 文
bu li xing
dan xue wen
不 努力地 實行
但是 學習 書本上的知識
don’t use effort to practice
only to study academic knowledge
If we only study bookishly, but do not apply such knowledge,
長 浮 華 ， 成 何 人
zhang fu hua
cheng he ren
長大 虛浮不實 華麗
成為 什麼 樣的人
growing up superficial vanity
to become what (kind of) people
We will just grow up being superficial and vain. What kind of people will we become?
但 力 行 ， 不 學 文
dan li xing
bu xue wen
只是 努力地 實行
不 學習 書本上的知識
only use effort to practice
don’t to study academic knowledge
Conversely, if we only work hard but refuse to study principles,
任 己 見 ， 昧 理 真
ren ji jian
mei li zhen
放任、沉溺 自己的 見解
隱藏 道理 真實性
to allow, indulge own views
to cover, to hide principle truth
we will be bound by our own myopic views, thus burying truth.
It is said, “One rarely lives beyond a century” and “Human lives are ephemeral as morning dew.” In the limited time that we have, we should use the difficult-to-come-by human form to pursue knowledge and practice benevolence, cultivating both blessings and wisdom. If we constantly worry about this fabricated “stinking skin bag,” buzzing about in a daze for the sake of living comfortably, then our banal life will be over soon enough. The result would be a futile life devoid of accomplishments and a sullen legacy in posterity. Wouldn’t that be miserable!
Then how do we cultivate both blessings and wisdom? To advance our virtue is to cultivate blessings; to advance our scholarship is to cultivate wisdom. All talk and no action is not to make progress in virtue; we must practice what we say. Reading whenever we please without commitment from beginning to end is not to make progress in scholarship. Erudition without application is as if listening to others talk about food-you don’t ever become full. Implementation without scholarship is as if you are a blind person feeling an elephant–you never quite get it.
What does “One never becomes full listening to conversations about food” mean? Since we don’t apply the knowledge we’ve learned, it’s useless to have had the education. The cunning ones may become articulate con artists; the obtuse ones may become nerds who bury themselves in books, failing to realize the benefits of practicing what they’ve learned. Isn’t this similar to hearing people talk about delectable delicacies? Even if you hear the menu of an entire imperial banquet, can you honestly curb your appetite ?
Next, on taking action before a thorough understanding of the situation. The zealot turns into a ruthless brute who could care less about his or her life. The conservative becomes a stubborn mule who corners oneself. Neither of them experiences the joy of connecting one’s spirit and the mind; furthermore, they don’t obtain any benefits from practice. Isn’t that like one blind person who reaches for the elephant’s leg and claims that an elephant is like a pole while another blind person who touches the elephant’s ear alleges that an elephant is like a fan? Even if these sightless individuals feel the elephant hundreds and thousands of times, they will hardly know the whole truth. Both the con artists and the nerds wanted to cultivate blessings but failed. They wanted to cultivate wisdom, but failed too. They lost on both ends!
Is it really that difficult to navigate the middle way of cultivating both blessings and wisdom and operating both compassion and intelligence?
In today’s world, superficiality and drama are in vogue while the language of wickedness reigns supreme because we’ve got more and more hippies who fail to implement what they’ve learned. During the latter years of the Warring States period, Zhao Gua specialized in “warfare on paper.” He was proud of the fact that he was considered the ultimate champion. Zhao’ s father had personally combated in hundreds of battles and was the only person who did not patronize Zhao. As Zhao’s father had expected, Zhao lost all of his battalions when he personally led the troops, dooming the nation Chao to an early death by the strong nation of Qin.
As to bookish nerds who can only study but not act, there have been more than plenty since ancient times and not too few in the present day either. These people either go insane or become sociopaths. In short, these categories of individuals who do not practice but only collect impractical knowledge portray the two extremes of our artificial world today.
On the other hand, stubborn old mules who only work, pull rank and never desire updated knowledge become the ball and chain of social progress. In contrast, brutes who refuse to learn yet wield a weapon and proclaim themselves heroes are also everywhere. These two types of action-takers, time bombs that threaten societal peace, blindly exercise their strength and demonstrate two radical reactions in our society. Why do we have these two extreme responses? It is because these individuals are domineering and self-righteous. The boorish ones may follow others’ ideas while the obstinate ones only follow their own views. Those who follow others’ ideas are obstructed by ignorance; those who follow their own ideas are obstructed by knowledge. Both types are obscured from and confused about truth. In short, delusion envelops these individuals!
Zi Lu once asked Confucius, “Could you ignore tradition and just follow the call of your heart?” Confucius answered, “No! In the past a tribal native east of China really admired the rites of China. When his son-in-law died, he taught his daughter to not remarry according to the rule that widows should not remarry. However, he clandestinely allowed his daughter to be with a man. Although the woman didn’t remarry, she had already violated the principle of chastity in reality. A tribe member of Cang Wu in southern China married a beautiful wife but conceded her to his elder brother. Outwardly these brothers appear to confer generously, but in actuality, they failed to abide by the true meaning of giving. That’s why I believe that if you abandon traditions and do as you please, you may do what seems correct, only to find out too late that your actions were wrong, as illustrated by my two examples.”
In teaching his students, Confucius strongly emphasized humaneness as the foundation of one’s character, the study of rites to demonstrate one’ s erudition-a scholar and a gentleman. Confucius counseled the basically wholesome Zi Lu who disliked propriety and culture, with an analogy. ” An arrow made with the bamboo of Southern Mountain may be straight and beautiful, however, if one mounts a sharp metallic arrowhead and append feathers to the tail of the arrow, then the arrow will shoot even faster and farther!” He encouraged Zi Lu to study more rather than spend all his time working. Conversely, to the cultured and debonair scholar, Zi Gong, Confucius commended him on his understanding of the idea, “to devise a plan then follow suit,” encouraging Zi Gong to work on the fundamentals of quality character.
All these explain the sequence of character and education. One must first develop morals and integrity before studying academically. Mr. Chu’s Aphorisms on Managing a Household said, “Even if your children and grandchildren are stupid, they must read.” Since people before us have compiled their wisdom for us in books, we are essentially absorbing their experiences by reading their books; thus we can avoid some wrong turns on the road.
Those who aren’t so bright by nature will understand many principles if they are willing to learn. Those with promising aptitudes and study well are like tigers with wings. Reading can change people’s persona. Only those with a pure and unadulterated mind can penetrate their subject of study. Once they have comprehended their studies, they will surely be visionary and embody both depth and breadth in their thinking. In opposition are individuals who use their education to help others breed errant sprouts. The Discourses on Vegetable Roots put it well, “One can only study and learn about antiquity with a clean mind ground. Otherwise, one will see a good deed and seize that credit for oneself; one will hear compliments and attempt to disguise one’s weaknesses. In other words, they borrow bandits to steal grain.” Therefore, if one’s mind is filthy and vicious, then not only will scholarship fail to alter one’s persona, but one will actually borrow morals out of stories to feign decency and cleverly pilfer principles out of books to mend misdeeds. This is comparable to handing muggers some weapons or lending food to thieves-danger looms at-large.
讀 書 法 ， 有 三 到
du shu fa
you san dao
讀 書 方法
有 三點 注意到之處
to read (to study) book method
have three places to reach
Keep three points in mind when studying.
心 眼 口 ， 信 皆 要
xin yan kou
xin jie yao
心 眼 口
確實 都 必須、具備
mind eyes mouth
surely all to be needed
You should use your mind, eyes, and mouth simultaneously.
方 讀 此 ， 勿 慕 彼
fang du ci
wu mu bi
才 學習 這個
不要 希求 那個
just to read this
don’t to look for that
Do not think about learning that when you have just started studying this.
此 未 終 ， 彼 勿 起
ci wei zhong
bi wu qi
這個 還沒有 結束
那個 不要 開始
this not yet to finish
that do not to start
Be sure to finish one area of study before taking up another.
An old English proverb goes, “Rolling rocks don’t grow moss.” This is analogous to someone who is discontent in the same position, who there- fore has a hard time attaining any success. Similarly, moss cannot collect and grow on the surface of a rolling rock. This aphorism is not teaching people to stagnate, be entrenched in old routines and refuse to evolve. Rather, this saying instructs us to take one honest step at a time and cover the basics, whether studying or working; we must not be overly ambitious and be greedy for efficiency or quantity .
How does one take one honest step at a time? One begins anything cautiously and ends respectfully, working with the utmost earnestness. If you always go after the novel, your mind will already be on a different topic before you master the first subject. How could your arms and legs be able catch up? When your arms and legs lag behind your mind, your eyes are aiming too high and your hands are reaching too low. While you rush headlong without coordination, you further miss your target. You become akin to a parrot that constantly imitates others without a language of its own. How does one cover the basics? One clears away externalities and goes directly to the source. If you only collect extraneous ends, then before you take one step, minutia has already sidetracked and trapped you. How can you possibly expand your horizons?
When you can’t expand your horizons, you end up creating a cocoon that constricts. Finally, you end up seeking dharma outside of the mind and receiving no true benefits. Discourses on the Roots of Vegetables said it well, “A well-written article contains nothing; it’s just right. A well-developed character has nothing odd; it’s fundamentally natural.” To be just right is to be moderate. To be good denotes staying with the mean. Since we were pure to begin with, purity denotes returning to what is natural and true. If you’re good and true, then you rediscover the beauty that is already within you! How can anything we do then be considered inappropriate? We must cover the basics and be honest, whether in our studies or at work. Don’t let the colorful flowers and foliage confuse you. Furthermore, don’t let those choppy reports and poorly-written essays lock you down!
A Chinese calligrapher who deemed himself the best had heard that elsewhere there was another calligrapher with the title, “Number One in the Universe.” The first Chinese calligrapher couldn’t resist stealing a look. When he got to the main thoroughfare in town, he saw someone on stage with writing material. Staked on the side of the road was a flag headlined, “Number One in the Universe” that fluttered about in the wind, challenging and intimidating all passersby. The calligrapher saw Mr. Universe swing his strokes right on the spot and the observing calligrapher returned home without a peep. From then on this man practiced in seclusion for three years. What kind of outstanding stunt was he doing during these three years? None! You wouldn’t believe it if I told you! He didn’t have any clever tricks at all; he simply practiced drawing circles. During those entire three years, he drew one circle after another until he was able to pick up his calligraphy pen and draw circles that were equal in size, width, and proportion. Then he went to visit that still undefeated Mr. Universe. When the challenger reached the table, he lifted up the pen and in one breath drew several circles.
As it is said, “The expert simply stretches out his hand and you know whether he has it or not. “While observers were still at a loss, the reigning calligrapher glared and remained speechless out of shock at first, and then he embarrassingly packed up his stuff, rolled up the “Number One in the Universe” banner and left without a word.
The moral of this story is that, first of all, you can accomplish anything if you concentrate. Second, the greatest trick is a trick that uses no tricks. The cleverest technique is a technique that isn’t considered a technique. So how do you study so that you may concentrate? The ancients mentioned the “three presences” and the “three tops.” The three presences are the presence of the eyes, the presence of the mouth and the presence of the mind. Having your eyes present means that you read each and every word earnestly; having your mouth present means that you enunciate each line clearly; having your mind present means that you are clear about every word and each line. The three tops refer to being on top of dining tables, on top of beds and on top of toilets. Not only do you study with your eyes, mouth and mind present while at your desk, but you do not let up on your studying during meals, bedtimes and even in the bathroom. Toilets during ancient times were bare and smelly. If you can sit there and still read, you really have severed your false thoughts–your success is inevitable.
Contemporary bathrooms are bright, clean and quite cozy, so it’s cooler and easier for people today to work in there. However, precisely because modern men have been liberated from many physical restraints and are so comfortable–some individuals really work in their restrooms now! How? They’ll sometimes sit in the lavatory for an hour or two. What kind of work are they doing? They’re reading newspapers, magazines, romance novels or kung fu books. I honestly don’t know whether they save or waste time.
We must know that life is brutal and short. To live an average and mediocre existence is one life; to live a fulfilled and perfect existence is one life too. If we’re afraid to work hard and only pick what’s most convenient, perhaps to the point of complete indolence and vice, severe difficulty will likely follow. More specifically, we reap what we sow; we will end up circulating endlessly in the sea of suffering.
During the Qing Dynasty in China, a beggar named Wu Xun lived in Tangyi, Shandong Province. He lost his father at the age of three and lost his mother at the age of seven. He could only beg for a living because his family was so poor. Wu Xun had personally experienced the pain of illiteracy, so he aspired to establish a school to benefit the poor. He endured hardships to save his money. He saved every penny he had received from begging continuously for several decades. In his old age, he indeed purchased land and established a school. Furthermore, he went from one household to another beseeching poor families to send their kids to school, then beseeching the educated to teach. If teachers refused to teach, he would kneel at length; if students refused to learn, he would cry nonstop, pleading with them. Finally, he moved an entire village of people to dedicate themselves to teaching and learning. At his death he had established three schools.
Similar cases also exist in early American history. Before education in the U.S. became prevalent and when racial discrimination was rampant, an ambitious young African American named Booker T. Washington worked in the mines during the day and studied at night school during the evenings. At his graduation, the school saw he was very hardworking and had excellent grades, so they asked him to be an instructor. However, he wasn’t satisfied with his own livelihood and rising status; he aspired to improve the quality of life for all African Americans. Later he borrowed money to purchase straw huts and land. Washington enrolled about thirty students and founded an elementary school for African Americans. He personally led the students in chopping wood, burning bricks, and constructing classrooms. He also taught students to plant grains and vegetables, and raise chickens, ducks, cows and sheep to subsidize the school. Not only did the production gradually pay for the school itself, but students also acquired knowledge and production skills through these daily routines. Later, more and more students enrolled, and more and more teachers enthusiastically came to help. Eventually, this school became the world’s largest and most famous school for African Americans .
Once Washington was invited to Iowa State for a speech. That night, as he was talking to many famous people in the hotel’s reception room, a drummer with a large copper drum saw Washington. Taking him for a bellman, the musician called out, “Bring me a glass of ice water! Then bring my luggage upstairs!” Washington answered, “Yes, sir!” When Washington came down the stairs, all the honored guests were in a panic, but he smiled, saying, “I accepted that man’s tip of a dime to avoid embarrassing him. Furthermore, this one dime will help educate my impoverished students.” He served as a role model through his behavior, tirelessly working for the sake of education throughout his life. At his death, newspapers worldwide commemorated him with front-page coverage. Also, one hundred thousand African Americans set up a bronze statue and a stone tablet for him. On the tomb is the inscription, “He eliminated ignorance among the public; through the paths of education and industry he guided the public.”
The Three Character Classics states, “Unpolished jade cannot serve as a vessel; the uneducated person cannot understand integrity. Students who do not learn go against the grain. What will be- come of youngsters who do not study? ” Think about it: since we’re fortunate enough to live in the modem era of public education, abundant books and school supplies and a more conducive environment than that in the past, why don’t we study hard while we’re still young so that we may help ourselves and help others? Let’s not allow previous generations take all the glory; furthermore, let’s not be ridiculed by future generations!
寬 為 限 ， 緊 用 功
kuan wei xian
jin yong gong
寬容有餘的 做，設立 期限
加緊地 使用 功夫
lofty, broad to make a limit
tightly to use effort
Give yourself abundant time to read a book; then apply effort steadily.
工 夫 到 ， 滯 塞 通
gong fu dao
zhi se tong
停頓 不通 貫通、明白
effort to reach
standstill obstruction to penetrate, to understand
Once your skill has matured, you will understand and resolve all difficulties.
心 有 疑 ， 隨 札 記
xin you yi
sui zha ji
心 有 疑惑
隨即、緊接 做 筆記
mind have doubt
follow through to make a note
When you have a question, make a note of it.
就 人 問 ， 求 確 義
jiu ren wen
qiu que yi
跟、接近 他人 請問
尋求 真確 意義
to draw near someone to ask
to search, to seek accurate meaning
Ask someone for the answer when the opportunity arises.
Although we have to study hard, we must use the correct methods of studying, too; otherwise we only do things halfway, wasting time and effort. What are some correct methods? First, we should calm our mind and clarify our purpose. Purpose is the mind’ s steering wheel while the mind drives our purpose. If our perspectives are erroneous, then our direction tilts. Once our direction slants, regardless of how diligent we may be, we will never reach our destination. So the first and most essential task in studying is to establish a purpose. If you have a purpose, and then you begin to study incessantly, you are “studying as if a stiff.” If you don’t want to study like a stiff, you should learn some other methods. What are some good methods? A common saying goes, “It breaks if too taut; it unravels if too sluggish; you arrive at mastery when you’re neither too uptight nor too slow.” This is easier said than done. We have a hard time deciphering and adjusting our tension and speed.
In general, we ought to allot more than sufficient time within our plans while strictly observe the schedule when we carry out our plans. That is to say, do not give yourself too much pressure thinking about the results before you even start studying. One knows one’s own standing and quality .You must first understand yourself and not compare yourself with others. You only die from frustration if you compare yourself with others. Consequently, you only denigrate your work without helping yourself a bit.
Once you have settled on an aspiration and a goal, you can then set up several short-term objectives within the long-term goal. You give yourself enough time to study, taking one step at a time as you gradually move closer to your target. Never be overly ambitious that you try to fly before you’ve even learned to crawl or take one step for every three. When you force yourself that way, you become breathless and have to abandon your work. You end up with nothing but a complete loss of confidence. For example, suppose you want to become an authority on physics. What you can do is to establish and follow through on short- term objectives for yourself during your years in elementary school, junior high school, high school, university and graduate school. Within each short-term objective you may further map out short-range targets, such as reading so many physics articles in a week, doing so many small-scaled experiments in a month, or acquiring so much new information on physics in a year.
The broader your goal, the easier it is to obtain it. You will have less pressure and distractions that way, thus boldly move forward. As your plan unfolds, you may become an elementary or secondary school teacher, or a university professor for the sake of livelihood or interest. You may also find a relevant research job. You do not want to stray off of your target and start selling flowers, promoting insurance, or working in other unrelated fields. If you do that, it’s more difficult to become an expert in your field. Having wasted some time, you may have to backtrack; nonetheless your success remains uncertain.
Edison, the American inventor of the light bulb, was an especially curious child who loved to experiment. Once, Edison saw some hens hatching chicks. For the sake of research, he sat on some eggs for a day in full attention. Precisely because he behaved in this manner so frequently, everyone laughed at how stupid he appeared. Edison’s schoolteacher thought he was an idiot too. His mother, on the other hand, thought teaching methods in typical schools were inappropriate for her son. She taught Edison at home, providing him with plenty of opportunities to think and analyze freely, to experiment and to invent. When Edison grew up, he invented more and more gadgets that also became increasingly practical. He became the greatest inventor of contemporary times because of his focus on his goal and tirelessness.
Once Edison was hungry during experimentation, so he went to boil an egg. After what seemed a suitable amount of cooking time, Edison lifted the lid and saw his watch in the cooker whereas an egg was still on the table! On his wedding day, the couple drove by the laboratory. Edison got off the car and entered the lab. It was already dark by the time he finished his experiments, yet he found his poor bride, tired and hungry, still waiting for him in the car!
Of course, we’re not encouraging you to imitate Edison. However, you should realize that the happiest part of studying is when you concentrate until you understand and everything clicks for you. A couple of lines in the Discourse on the Roots of Vegetables were obviously articulated by veterans, “When your study fathoms the true meaning in a book, you have transcended the barriers of language. When your spirit has meshed with the object of your observation, you are no longer attached to phenomena.” Studying requires full concentration; “metal and stone will break apart if you’re sincere enough.” You must study thoroughly and investigate deeply. “The faults of others can be used to attack one’s own faults.” Once the work becomes second nature to you, you will easily master your subject; once you become an expert in one subject, you become an expert in all subjects. Also, you must be flexible while studying. If you know it then you know it; if you don’t know it then you don’t know it. If you pretend to know when you don’t, others will refuse to teach you. You will have lost an opportunity to truly understand. Therefore you must avoid biting off more than you can chew and pretending to be a specialist. You’re being greedy when you try to swallow a large chunk all at once. Avoid being greedy for quantity or speed; otherwise by analogy you’ll lose your life to a sudden illness. You’re being lazy when you play a charlatan. If you you’re too lazy to memorize or think, then by analogy a slowly spreading virus will nibble away your pillar of support. Throughout the history of the world, no greedy or lazy person has been completely successful.
Therefore, while studying you must balance relaxation and discipline, and always ask questions. Once you have a question, you should think, ask and make sure you understand. Do not readily toss your doubt aside and give up just as you’re about to cross the finish line. If you take words at their surface and never doubt, you fail to understand, as if reading lifeless books. Reading lifeless books or reading like a stiff-either way it’s dead reading. Even an erudite expert in rites and scholarship such as Confucius still “enters the grand temple and inquires about everything.” One should “get to the bottom of the wok until it breaks; even then one still pursues with yet another question, inquiring about the purchase place of the wok.” There- fore, some busybodies joked, “Who says that Confucius knows about manners? How can someone who understands manners ask questions endlessly?” Nonetheless, Confucius maintained his typical attitude: “If you know it then you know it; if you don’t know it then you don’t.” This cautious and humble attitude exemplifies someone who truly understands manners. We ought to emulate Confucius’ serious attitude toward learning and his matter-of-fact spirit!
房 室 清 ， 牆 壁 淨
fang shi qing
qiang bi jing
room to keep neat
wall to cleanse
Our room should be kept neat and tidy with the walls uncluttered and clean.
几 案 潔 ， 筆 硯 正
ji an jie
bi yan zheng
毛筆 硯台 放端正
table, desk to tidy up
pen ink slab well arranged
Our desk should be kept in good order, pens and papers well arranged.
墨 磨 偏 ， 心 不 端
mo mo pian
xin bu duan
墨條 研細、摩擦 歪斜的
心 不 端正的
ink stick to grind slanted
mind not upright
If our ink stick is ground at an angle, it’s likely our minds are not upright.
字 不 敬 ， 心 先 病
zi bu jing
xin xian bing
字 不 工整的
心 首先地 有毛病
writing not neat
mind first to have problem
If our writing is sloppy and careless, it is because we are absent-minded.
People who practice calligraphy know that, “If their minds are straight, their characters will be upright.” Thus, in ancient China calligraphy was considered one of the Six Arts (the six skills an educated person was required to learn). The other five Arts were rites, music, archery, chariot driving, and applied arts. (Some have interpreted this sixth art as mathematics, but I think “applied arts” is more apt. First of all, pure mathematics is academic knowledge and cannot be considered a skill. Applied mathematics is included in applied arts. Secondly, since the pre- Qin period, philosophers have drawn analogies such as making carriage wheels, boats, and ships; painting; and carpentry, indicating that scholars in those days understood applied arts as well as academics. Thus, they must have studied applied arts.) It is a pity that later scholars began to focus purely on academics, valuing the Six Classics but not the Six Arts. Now, only rites, music, and calligraphy–the three less active Arts, are still valued. The other three, which require hand-and-brain coordination, have been scorned as physical activities. As a result, modern-day scholars do nothing but study, get very little exercise, and have no idea of how to live a balanced life. They are pictured as effete intellectuals, “weaklings who can’t truss a chicken,” and “useless scholars.” On the other hand, since calligraphy has been regarded as a tool for cultivating one’s moral character and spirituality , and as art also involves a certain beauty, it has had the fortune of surviving until the present.
As a tool for spiritual cultivation, the art of calligraphy involves arranging the desk and chair; setting out the paper, brush, ink slab, and ink; holding the brush; and writing the characters. These guidelines are described in the present verses.
The room must be kept neat and tidy, the walls uncluttered and clean, the desk in good order, and the writing utensils well arranged. When the environment is well-prepared, the mind will be calm. With this foundation in place, one then attends to posture: grinding the ink stick evenly, holding the brush neither too tightly nor too loosely. In this way, one’s characters will be even and firm at the least, if not beautiful. For calligraphy to be beautiful as art, one must develop one’s technique through continuous practice and adjustment.
In general, the preparatory work should not be taken lightly. Don’t think that diligent practice suffices to produce beautiful characters. If you neglect the daily preliminary work, your characters will be frivolous rather than magnanimous. Their artistic quality will be diminished, and you will suffer an irreparable physical and psychological loss.
Modern parents make the mistake of having lofty expectations that overlook the basics. They consider children who do well in school and are talented to be outstanding. They consider children who don’t do drugs or party a lot to be well-behaved. Thus, they slave away doing all the household chores and cooking, but dare not ask their children to help, lest it adversely affect their homework. They even tidy their children’s rooms or pre- tend not to notice the mess. As a result, we have a bunch of un- grateful, frivolous young people. They cannot survive on their own or weather emotional crises. Unused to planning ahead and making decisions, they are neither efficient nor careful in their work. Consequently, they cannot persevere to the end.
As an old proverb says, “If you cannot keep a room in order, how can you maintain order in the nation?” Keeping one’s room tidy may seem a trivial, personal affair unrelated to important, public matters. Yet, if one cannot even keep one’s personal affairs in order, what energy could one have to take care of public affairs? If one handles small matters poorly, how can one handle large matters capably? Doing daily household chores nurtures one’s tenacity, perseverance, and sense of responsibility .Efficient performance of household chores fosters management acumen and organizational skills. With such tenacity, perseverance, acumen, skills, and responsibility, one will quite easily find a job to support oneself. When the opportunity arises, one will be able to calmly plan strategies to skillfully tackle national and international issues. How can anyone say that tidying the room is a personal, trivial matter?
The Doctrine of the Mean says, “The actions of the cultivated person serve as a path for the world; his practices serve as laws for the world; his words serve as regulations for the world.” Such a cultivated person is not one who merely “studies for ten years by the window in the cold.” His temperament, character, abilities were forged through a long period of doing routine household chores from childhood onwards. A person who does not understand how to learn and live is truly poor; poverty has nothing to do with one’s natural talent or wealth. A person who learns how to keep his own living space and belongings in order at a young age will be capable of handling all matters in an organized fashion as an adult. He will be able to surmount any difficulty and rise above any situation.
As long as a family is happy, though they subsist on plain fare, how can they be considered poor? Genuine poverty is experienced by those who are psychologically starved or confused, who err out of nervousness, and who cannot handle anything well. Socrates, the great Greek philosopher hailed as the Confucius of the West, insisted, “The ordered soul is the only truly happy one, the only one capable of living the good life.” Since “Every man is his own ruler,” why not teach our children to be neat and organized, so they can take charge of their own lives and be ordered souls?
列 典 籍 ， 有 定 處
lie dian ji
you ding chu
有 固定 地方
to arrange in order books
have fixed place
Each book that you use should have its own place on the shelf.
讀 看 畢 ， 還 原 處
du kan bi
huan yuan chu
讀 看 完、結束
歸回 原來 地方
study reading to finish
to return original place
After you finish reading, put the books back where they belong.
雖 有 急 ， 卷 束 齊
sui you ji
juan shu qi
即使 有 緊急
捲成一卷 用繩子捆紮 整齊
although to have an urgent matter
to roll to bind tidily and neatly
Even when in a hurry , you should close your books the right way.
有 缺 壞 ， 就 補 之
you que huai
jiu bu zhi
有 殘缺不全 破損
那麼、立即 修補 它
to have missing damaged
then; right away to repair them
If the pages or cover are damaged, be sure to take time to repair them.
The previous passage said that we should teach our children early on to be tidy and orderly, so that they will know how to lead their own lives and be disciplined in spirit. They ought to cherish not only their home environment, but their clothes and belongings as well.
The earlier section on “Learning to Be careful” mentioned that one’s clothes, hat, socks, and shoes should be neat and kept in their proper places; one must not casually leave them where they might get dirty or ruined. This section stresses that books ought to be kept in order as well. One must remember that even a piece of thread is hard to come by; how much the more should one treasure books containing the words of sages. Books should be classified and stored according to type, making them convenient to use. If they are returned to their place after one is done reading them, they will be easy to locate the next time one needs them, thus saving a lot of time.
古代中國的書籍，從最早的竹策、葦編，到後來的線裝紙面書，都很容易產生脫線缺頁，或磨損模糊的現象；所以取讀時必須小心，輕拿輕放，有破損缺頁，應馬上補修重釘，以免繼續散失或損毀。即使是現代的平面精裝版，若不加以愛護，也一樣會破損脫落或散失流佚；那麼下回再讀用時，是否得再買呢？若是絕版書，就有錢也買不到了！因此，日用間的條理井然，整潔有序，節省的不單是時間，也是金錢。一個人是不是有成就，是不 是能做自己的主，端看他日用間是否愛惜物事，條理井然 。
Ancient Chinese books-from the earliest bamboo tablets and reed pages to later string-bound paper books-tended to fall apart and lose their pages, or the writing would fade and rub off. Thus, it was essential to treat books carefully, picking them up and setting them down gently, and immediately repairing any damage. If pages were missing, one would immediately rebind the book to prevent further loss. If one does not handle a modern hardcover book gently, even it will fall apart and lose pages, and one will have to buy another copy the next time one wants to read it. If it is out of print, however, that simply won’t be possible. Thus, the habit of being organized in one’s daily life saves not only time but money. To tell whether people are successful and in control of their own lives, observe to see how organized they are and how carefully they handle things from day to day.
Abraham Lincoln, known for his love of learning, was born in a poor family and had to work to support his schooling. Since Lincoln could not afford to buy many books, he borrowed most of them from others. As a young boy, he looked up to George Washington, the first President. One day his friend lent him a biography of Washington. He read it over and over, unable to set it down. One night during a huge downpour, the roof of his humble home leaked and the book got wet. After he dried it by the fire, the pages were all wrinkled and the cover was stained.
Lincoln thought in despair, “If I return the book to my friend in this shape, people will never lend me another book again!” Then he worked for three days, and used his wages to buy a new copy of the biography of Washington for his friend. His friend approved heartily of Lincoln’s deed. After taking the book, he paid Lincoln for it and told him to buy another book with the money. Lincoln was grateful almost to the point of tears. Later, he reverently held the rain-drenched biography of Washington and read it every day, regarding Washington as his teacher. From that anecdote, we see that from his childhood, Lincoln cherished books, studied hard, and was absolutely trustworthy. Thus, he succeeded in completing his studies at last, freed the black slaves, and served as the sixteenth President of the United States. How could all of that have been mere chance or luck?
Books are crystallizations of the wisdom and experiences of those who came before us. Reading broadens our perspective and enables us to adapt others’ knowledge for our own use, so that we do things more efficiently. More importantly, we can develop proper concepts and good character through the influence of what we read. The benefits are endless! In every culture, the earlier we go back in history, the harder it was to make books and the more expensive they were. Due to the social and political systems in the past, education was not universal. Thus most poor and lowly families had no access to schooling and no opportunity to improve their lot. However, people can determine their own destinies, and there have also been examples of people who underwent hardships and achieved success, such as Lincoln and the black educator, Booker T. Washington. In ancient China, there were also many great scholars who overcame the hardship of the dearth of books by determination and intelligence.
A line in the Three Character Classic goes, “They wove rushes and shaved bamboo slips. Though they had no books, they pushed themselves to study.” That line alludes to Lu Wenshu and Gong Sun Hong of the Han dynasty.
Lu Wenshu came from a poor family and worked as a shepherd for others. He would copy books borrowed from others onto sheets of dried rushes that he had woven, so that he could read and study them over and over. Thus he became an eminent writer and statesman. Gongsun Hong also came from a poor family. Even at age fifty, he still herded pigs for others to support himself. Wishing to study, he whittled bamboo into slips, shaving off the green skin, then carved the Spring and Autumn Annals onto it from a book he had borrowed. Studying under such difficult circumstances, he eventually became the prime minister.
The great writer Ouyang Xiu of the Song dynasty also came from a poor family and lost his father at a young age. His mother, Mrs. Ouyang, taught her son to read by spreading sand on the ground and using a reed as a brush. She gave Ouyang Xiu an excellent primary education. Those are all stories of people who studied hard and succeeded despite the lack of books. Nowadays, with advanced publishing techniques and universal public education, everyone can get a basic education. However, not only are more and more children unappreciative of books, they even skip school to engage in improper activities, wasting their precious youth and becoming parasites and scoundrels of society. What a terrible pity!
非 聖 書 ， 屏 不 視
fei sheng shu
bing bu shi
不是 聖人的 書
摒棄 不 看
is not sages’ books
to cast away do not to look at
Unless they are proper books written by sages, we should avoid reading them.
蔽 聰 明 ， 壞 心 志
bi cong ming
huai xin zhi
損壞 心靈 意志
to cover intelligence
to destroy mind resolve
Reading such book would cover up our intelligence and undermine our resolve.
勿 自 暴 ， 勿 自 棄
wu zi bao
wu zi qi
不要 自己 傷害
不要 自己 放棄
do not self to injure
do not self to give up
We should not denigrate or give up on ourselves.
聖 與 賢 ， 可 馴 致
sheng yu xian
ke xun zhi
有仁德的人 和 有才智的人
可以 漸漸 到達
sages and worthy ones
may gradually to reach
We all can gradually learn to become worthies and sages ourselves.
Earlier, I talked about how books are the quintessence of wisdom and experience of those who came before us. Reading benefits people immensely, provided they read the good literature of sages and worthies. Gossip columns, sensational magazines, romance novels, horror stories and other such reading material may be not only useless, but harmful. Literature that promotes the eerie, the violent, the immoral, or the bizarre in the realm of the supernatural may damage people even more seriously! Therefore, although “It’s beneficial to open up a book,” you must peruse appropriate books. If you read indecent books, your thinking will be affected; everything that you perceive and hear will be slightly off. How can you expect people who wear dark glasses and plug their ears to hear well, see clearly, and perceive accurately?
Thinking controls people’s consciousness, and consciousness affects people’s behavior. The reason that people can be sages is because they resolve to become sages. Confucius once made a reference to the poem “Wild Plums” as an analogy .The poem goes, “The pretty flowers of the wild plums sway gently in the breeze; how can I not think about picking such a fine blossom? But it’s simply too far!” Confucius criticized, “They never really wanted it; otherwise it could not be too far!”
Hence, thinking motivates action. The mind of a person is his master. Aspiration directs the mind. If you make the resolve to become a sage and establish the goals of sages, you have taken the first step on the road to sagehood. The next steps would be to read the books of sages and do the deeds of sages. Although being a sage is a major responsibility and the road to it is long, how can the burden be too heavy to shoulder if your resolve is firm? How can the destination be too far?
Conversely, reading indecent works may wreck and crush someone’s resolve, so that one’s sense of direction is confused. How can one achieve anything positive in that case? In less serious cases, such individuals become the dregs of society and needy parasites to their families. More seriously, such individuals may injure themselves and mislead others, or even ruin the family, the nation, or the world!
In the last few years, not only has the teenage crime rate risen everywhere in the world, but the crimes have mostly taken place in the homes that nurture and schools that educate the young. The recent unfortunate shooting of students at a school in the United States and the young killers’ own suicide resulted from a poor choice in reading. Upon reading a deplorable book they fell under the lethal Nazi influence and turned into mad killers of non-whites. This exemplifies how unwholesome books can exert a terrifying influence on a person’s thinking, leading to subsequent harm on a massive scale.
Thus, freedom of the press is often abused by criminals. Some use publications to corrupt and brainwash people worldwide, hoping to attract more followers and commit more crimes and atrocities. In a political dictatorship or the dark ages of religious monopoly, choices in reading tended to be few and far between. Many censored books did not benefit people, but they were not necessarily extremely harmful either. On the other hand, many good books were censored on the grounds of differing political or religious persuasions, and as a result the people could not benefit from them.
Now, in a country of religious freedom and democracy, there is freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Everyone tries to have a voice, resulting in a conglomeration of the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you criticize some extremists or evil cults, you may be accused of interfering with freedom. Many improper publications dealing with the occult attract people with their novel, esoteric, or bizarre content. In fact, such books suddenly become bestsellers. Most people read these corrupt and evil books casually just to pass the time; whatever feelings they may have flash by without too much of an effect. However, for psychologically unstable teenagers or those with insular, sadistic or abusive tendencies, this type of literature is a shot of amphetamine in the eighth consciousness that causes mental and behavioral insanity .This reveals the reality: the human race is already shackled by “freedom to do evil”, – and is gradually losing the freedom to “live without fear”.
We should guide and educate our children well so that they have the freedom of reading selectively, reading literature that benefits the world. In that case, we not only develop ourselves, but influence the society-at-large to collectively work toward world peace. Do not neglect to perform small acts of good because you underestimate yourself and think that you cannot be a sage. At the same time, do not casually do even small acts of evil because you have given up on yourself and think that committing crimes won’t affect you. With either of these attitudes, one loses the essence and the resolves of a scholar .
What are the essence and resolves of a scholar? “To remain calm despite affection or humiliation” describes the true character of a scholar. “To resolve one’s mind for the sake of the universe; to arrange one’s life for the sake of the populace; to perpetuate the teachings of sages of the past; to create world peace for the sake of all generations”: These are the resolves of a scholar .Why should scholars make these resolves? It is because scholars are capable of great resolves, profound resolves, and steadfast resolves-resolves to perpetuate the incredibly wonderful knowledge of the universe, past and present. If you set out to bring about universal peace and blessings for every generation, you will learn with a sound mind. It is just as Buddhists must make great vows, profound vows, and steadfast vows. If you vow to be reborn in the Western Paradise and to save all living beings, you will cultivate single-mindedly. Studying and practicing with that kind of resolve, you will have enough samadhi to overcome any difficulty, and you will naturally be calm whether you are favored or ostracized.
What does it mean “to remain calm despite affection or humiliation”? That means we should have a backbone. We refuse to let our aspirations erode in the face of luxurious riches or honorable position. We refuse to alter our virtuousness when facing a life of poverty or modest duties. We refuse to mentally bow down and submit in the face of oppression or violence. We must read more sagely books, emulate the virtues of sages, and learn the ways of sages. To our dying day, we shall permeate ourselves with their influence. If we study in this fashion, we will naturally possess the character of sages even if we do not reach sagehood. That’s what is meant by the Buddhist phrase, “always following and learning from the Buddhas.”
To follow the Buddha is to learn from the Buddha. If you are merely believe blindly in the Buddha and think that you will never become a Buddha, you are cutting yourself off from Buddhahood. You may cultivate arduously, participating in a hundred ceremonies daily, bowing to ten thousand Buddhas monthly, but ultimately you’re simply indulging in an idle dream, as if hoping to make rice by cooking sand! Similarly, if you worship sages and worthy ones, but write yourself off as a potential sage or saint, you are actually deserting the sages and worthy ones. You may study arduously for decades upon decades in miserable conditions, but ultimately you are no better than the ant that gnaws on the watermelon rind, unable to taste the fruit! Hence Yan Hui resolved, “Who were Shun and Yu [ancient sage-emperors]?
In other words, anyone can be Yao or Shun; all living beings can become Buddhas. However, the road to Buddhahood is long; it takes more than a few steps to reach your aim. The key to the sentence “We all can gradually learn to become worthies and sages ourselves” is the word “gradually”. “Gradually” means in the natural course of things; there’s nothing forced here. You do not speed forward out of greed for merit, for you would fail to reach your destination due to your eagerness. Although I said that aspiring to sagehood and making the resolves of a sage is the first step, you may also take the next step by reading the books of sages and doing sagely deeds. However, this next step is actually numerous steps. You must take one step at a time, exerting your- self without rushing or dallying.
The Discourse on the Roots of Vegetables states, “Saw the wood with a rope, and the tree will fall. Drip water on a rock, and a hole will form. Students of the Way should apply themselves similarly. When water flows, a brook is formed. When the melon is ripe, the stem breaks off. The achiever of the Way shoulders the secrets of the universe.” That is to say, you should work hard for the long term: Study and cultivate day by day and month by month. You would rather be dull and steady than clever and futile. For example, if you tried to saw wood with a piece of rope, you would halve the log after a while. If you tried to pierce a rock with drops of water, you could eventually penetrate the rock. When you are exerting yourself, do not think about your exertion. That way, you will not become restless. Un- perturbed, you will strengthen your skill in the course of time. When the time and conditions are right, the lacquer barrel [i.e. our ignorance] bursts apart with a boom. You will then “see the full moon in the middle of the sky”; you will naturally realize the Way. Just as flowing water naturally forms a stream, when the melon is ripe, it naturally breaks at its stem. Everything is a divine secret; it cannot be obtained by force or predicted.
In the latter part of the Song Dynasty, the kingdom of Yuan invaded. As a scholar, Wen Tianxiang fearlessly expended all of his assets to organize a defense force of guerilla troops to fight against the villain, King Qin. Wherever he went to call on the people, his power and reputation grew. After several years of war, the kingdom had had three emperors, yet Wen continued to defend the nation loyally and bravely. Tireless, he submitted several proposals to Minister Yo, Minister Zuo and National Advisor Xing. Finally, he was defeated and captured. The King of Yuan appreciated Wen’s talent and couldn’t bear to kill him. He tried several times to make Wen surrender, using both threats and bribes, but Wen was not moved. Jailed in the state of Yan for three years, Wen vowed that he would die rather than capitulate. Finally, he was executed.
During his imprisonment, Wen wrote “The Song of Righteousness,” which contained historical and contemporary references. Rich in sentiment as well as expression, the last four lines say, “It’s been long since the days of the wise ones. They are role models from the past. Under the awning I read these classics; indeed, the ancient Way illumines the true colors of all.” The tone of the Song’s initial section is one of awe-inspiring righteousness; the middle section is impassioned and poignant, while in the end he returns to a firm steadiness and sense of freedom, ready to face death head on. This no doubt illustrates a scholar’s true character and displays a great hero’s ways!
After Wen Tianxiang died, a note was found in his belt with the words, “Confucius realized humaneness while Mencius apprehended justness. It is only because one has attained humane- ness that one is replete with justness. What else is there to learn from the books of sages? Henceforth, I have no regrets.” We students must “emulate ancient and modern models of perfection, relying on the righteousness of the universe.” Whether studying or cultivating, we should always be vigorous and courageous from start to finish, picking ourselves up each time we stumble and fall. If we can do that, we can honestly declare before we die, “I have done everything I wanted to do; I have no regrets!”