Translated by Yaichiro Isobe
(copyright not renewed)
The original of this book has been written by a Chinese scholar, Hung Ying-ming. Little is known of him beyond the fact that he flourished during the Wanri era (15751619 A.D.) of the Ming dynasty. The title of the book is Ts'ai-ken-t'an. Ts'ai means vegetables, ken, roots, and t'an, talk; literally, therefore, Ts'ai-ken-t'an means "Talks by a man who lives on vegetable roots"; or translated freely, "The meditations of a man who lives a plain and humble life." The title seems to have been suggested by the celebrated remark of a Chinese scholar who flourished during the period of the Sung dynasty, to the effect that anything worth doing is possible for a man who confines his diet exclusively to vegetables. A similar and, at the same time, more significant observation was made by Chu Tzu, the great Confucian of the Sung dynasty. "Alas!" says the philosopher, "among my contemporaries, there are too many who have degenerated because they cannot live on a vegetable diet." Thus, according to these scholars, the simple life is the only way by which a sound moral character can best be cultivated, and, therefore, observations by those who live such a life are understood to be precepts on moral training.
The title of the present translation, "Musings of a Chinese Vegetarian" may be misleading, for the author was not a vegetarian as such, but merely a man of simple tastes and habits, who was indifferent to worldly distractions.
The book is a kind of miscellany, in which the doctrines of Taoism and Buddhism are grafted on the teachings of Confucius so happily that the blending of the three constitutes an interesting ethical system, mostly made up of epigrams and aphorisms. Being the reiterations of the three doctrines, it must be admitted that the book contains little that might be called original, but it is of much interest in that it shows us how readily apparently different or conflicting doctrines, both moral and religious, can be harmonized.
The interest of the original centres, however, in its literary merit. It is a unique piece of literature, written in a particularly attractive style. Pithy, concise, and impressive in expression, the book abounds with numerous references to, and quotations from, the three above-mentioned sources. Rhyme is sometimes employed, so as to make the passages sound like verses. But these charms are, I regret to say, inevitably lost in the present translation.
Emphasizing the importance of plain living, the general tone of the book seems to be lacking in a spirit of enterprise and progressiveness, but a careful examination of the original convinces one that such an observation is superficial. While it dwells upon the pleasures of a recluse's life, it is full of many inspiring remarks, which may stimulate the reader into enthusiastic activity. One of its features is the worship of nature. The author was, indeed, a devout lover of nature, who anticipated Wordsworth in asserting that there exists a mysterious sympathy between nature and man. The following remark on nature shows how this was reflected in the author's eyes:
No sooner has the tree lost its leaves and the grass withered in autumn than new sprouts begin to issue from their roots. Even in the dead of winter, the genial spirit of spring is already stirring under snow and frost, for the power of growth is greater than the forces of destruction. And this, be it remembered, is the mighty soul of Nature.
Does not this breathe forth a vigorous spirit? The whole tone of the book can never be negative and morbid, as it is usually held to be.
There is another observation which is worthy of special notice in this age of ours when permanent peace is the subject of universal quest:
Every affair under the sun entails some evil or other; therefore, what is best in the world is peace. An ancient poet says: "Do not speak in eulogy of a newly-created peer; while the meritorious services of a general are recognized, the bones of ten thousand men lie bleaching on the battle-fields." Another poet of old makes the sword talk in this strain: "Were permanent peace ever to prevail in this world, I would rest contented in my scabbard for a thousand years." Well said! A serious reflection on the immense waste of lives in battle, without bringing any material benefit to mankind, would quench human ambition for fame and honour; and ardent desire for adventures would cool down, as ice or hailstones are melted by the summer sun.
With the three teachings of Confucius, Lau Tzu, and Buddha thus happily amalgamated, the book may be said to be an epitome of the ideas which have influenced the Orient for centuries. In these days when Chinese and Japanese cultures are so eager-studied by Occidentals, the present book amply deserves their notice, but strange to say, so far as I know, its translationat least into Englishhas not previously appeared. Even its name, as likely as not, is quite unknown to Europeans. There is a bibliographical book entitled "Notes on Chinese Literature," by A. Wylie. It is, perhaps, the most comprehensive work of its kind, and yet no mention of this book is found there.
The present translation has, therefore, been attempted to fill up the gap. The use of the word translation may not be apt, for it is nothing more than a paraphrase. It is quite beyond my power to do justice to its beauties. It would, in fact, be impossible, it seems to me, for any English translator to do so. The trouble is that no European language can possibly have words and expressions adequately to render the ideas and sentiments embodied in the original.
In translating such a book into English, it may be that the Japanese have, apart from the linguistic question, some advantage over Occidentals, for we have much in common with the Chinese both physically and spiritually, so that we can the better reproduce the Chinese psychology. The study of Chinese literature has been pursued by Japanese scholars with as much assiduity as that with which they have followed their own.
Such being the case, though the present translation has no literary merit to recommend it, I flatter myself that the spirit of the original has been caught to a degree that a European translator could scarcely hope to attain.
The book is, I believe, highly recommendable to the Japanese of today. During the last half century, materialistic civilization has taken the country by storm in consequence of which our people, both old and young, have been seized with an unquenchable thirst for worldly success; some of them seeking to acquire wealth, others aspiring to power. The mad stampede for their goals leaves them scarcely any time for the cultivation of that moral character and refined taste, which embellish our lives. It is hoped that the perusal of such a book as the present volume may cool down their fever in a measure and thus leave a margin to their too busy and bustling lives.
Tokyo. November, 1925.
Those who are virtuous and never swerve from the right path, are obscure only during their lifetime, while those who prosper by fawning on the great are forever lost in oblivion after their death. A man of superior wisdom overlooks all sublunary things and yearns after the things that are immortal. Therefore, though doomed to temporary obscurity, do not fail to aspire to that which is eternal.
Those who have not seen much of life are comparatively free from the stain of its vices, while those who have much experience in the world are sharp and astute. For the virtuous, therefore, it is better to be simple and unsophisticated rather than be smart and dexterous; better to be ingenuous and eccentric rather than be studied and punctilious.
The minds of the virtuous should be as blue as the sky and as clear as broad daylight; it should not be concealed from the notice of others. The talents of the virtuous, on the contrary, ought to be like enfolded gems; they should not be visible.
He is noble of character who does not care for power, reputation, wealth, and pomp, but he is still nobler who may be in enjoyment of these, and yet is not under their vicious influences. He is of lofty character who does not know how to cheat another, but he is much loftier who has an art to deceive another, and yet never has recourse to it.
Though you may always hear something unpleasant or have something to offend you, never be worried on that account, for that something is a whetstone by which alone you can improve your Virtue and behave yourself right. If every word you hear fell flattering on your ears or everything you do or meet with turned out to be satisfactory, your whole life would be poisoned.
In stormy weather even the birds feel sad and melancholy; but on a fine day, when the leaves are glittering in the sun, even the plants look happy and rejoiced. As nature, you see, cannot do without peace even a single day, so man cannot exist in this world without a cheerful heart.
Rich wine and meat, or anything that is particularly bitter or sweet, are not real delicacies; what is truly luscious is light and plain in taste. So, anything superhuman or extraordinary does not characterize a true man; on the contrary, he is so commonplace in his everyday life that he can scarcely be distinguished from ordinary people.
At first sight the universe is quiet and reposed, and yet its elements, positive and negative, are constantly at work. The sun and the moon keep moving in their orbits day and night, and yet their lustre remains unabated for ever. Likewise, a true man should be wide awake even in idleness, being ready for emergency; on the other hand, he ought not to neglect refined pursuits, though busied with his occupation.
When we look inward, sitting up alone at midnight, with all noises hushed, we shall feel our real self show itself in bold relief and all our passions gone with that. It is at this moment that we awake to the understanding of the great Truth, and it makes us deeply ashamed to reflect how we have been the slaves of earthly desires and passions.
Special favour or patronage is apt to betray the recipient into unexpected evil. At the acme of his prosperity, therefore, the favourite should be betimes on his guard. After failure may follow success; therefore, though everything is against you, be firm in your purpose and cling to it to the last.
Purity of heart is mostly found in those who live a simple life; while servility generally characterizes those who are luxurious. For lofty impulses are best cultivated by men who live plainly, while they are lost to those who are fond of dainties.
When alive, you should be generous in imparting blessings to others, lest there be any murmur among them; when dead, your mercy should flow in abundance that people under you may not suffer from want or privation.
When meeting a man in a narrow path, halt a pace and give way to him. Never monopolize a delicious dish, but give a portion of it to another. For such compromise is the only safe way of going through the world.
Though you have never achieved any great undertaking, if you can only be free from vulgar ambitions, you will be able to make a mark on your age. Though your learning is not so extensive as to benefit the world at large, if you can but get rid of earthly vexations, you may rely upon attaining a saintly position.
In friendship, you should be ruled by a sacrificing spirit. To be a man, you ought to keep a clear conscience.
Never be ahead of others in courting patronage or seeking after gain and emolument; on the other hand, never be behind others in virtuous acts. Don't accept any more share of favour than you deserve; on the contrary, in self-improvement and exercise of virtue, your effort should not be less than your power allows.
In the journey of life, it is prudent to give way a step to your neighbor, for going backward is, after all, going forward. In the treatment of men, it is wiser to be rather indulgent than to be severe. Try to profit another, for it is, in fact, the root of your own advantage.
Even a deed, the beneficial influence of which may cover the whole world, is destroyed by the single word, "Pride." Even a crime, the blackness of which may obscure the whole heaven, can be redeemed by the single word, "Repentance."
Reputation and honour should not be monopolized by yourself alone, but let others have a share in them. By doing thus you will be able to keep out of harm's way and to close your days in perfect safety. If you and your friends are exposed to public censure for an alleged disgrace, bear the burden yourself, instead of trying to shift the responsibility on the others. Conceal your merits from the public eye and strive after the improvement of your virtue.
If you be moderate in doing anything, the Creator cannot be envious of you, nor can gods and evil spirits do harm to you. Never seek fullness in all your endeavors, for such ambition will surely give rise to either internal or external troubles.
There exists a true Buddha at home too: the truth is to be found in our everyday experiences. If we are sincere of heart, cheerful of spirit, and gentle in our looks and words, keeping cordially and affectionately with our parents and brothers, so that perfect concord, physical and spiritual, prevails in the whole family, the result will be incomparably superior to deep breathing and introspection as done in religious meditation.
He who loves activity too much may be compared to lightning flashing from among the clouds or to lighted candles flickering in the wind. He who is too fond of repose may be likened to cold ashes or a dead tree. Either of these is not to be envied. A man should be as free and natural as a fish leaping out of the water or a hawk soaring up to the heaven through the stationary clouds. By this alone can he hope to attain the mental attitude of the virtuous.
In upbraiding another, be not too severe; consider how he can bear the blame. In advising another to be better, the precept should not be too high for him; let it be suited to the capacity of his understanding.
Maggots are most foul, and yet they turn themselves into cicadas, which swallow dew in the autumnal breeze. Rotten grass is lusterless, and yet it transforms itself into a glowworm and gives light on a summer night. These facts evidently prove that purity comes out of dirtiness and light is the product of darkness.
Pride and arrogance are the outcomes of sham or artificial courage. The righteous spirit can have free scope only when this spurious courage is subdued. Passions and desires, as well as arbitrary discrimination between things are all nothing but delusion. When the mind is free from this delusion, the soul manifests itself in its real aspect.
When one's appetite has been gratified, one is no longer fastidious about the flavor of diet. When one's lust has been indulged in, one loses sight of the distinction of the sexes. If a man, therefore, anticipates the regret that is to come after folly, and subdues his rising appetites or passions, his nature will settle down, and all his actions be kept within the bounds of reason and propriety.
Persons of high rank and office should have a taste for hills and woods; on the other hand, those who have forests and fountains as their constant companions should be interested in public affairs, as though they were the members of the cabinet.
It is not demanded of every man to render any remarkable service to the public: to be flawless in his conduct is a noteworthy deed. In doing a favour to another, it is not necessary that the recipient should be made to be impressed with gratitude: to be free from malice is a virtue itself.
To be cautious and vigilant is a virtue, but when carried to excess, it is apt to curb one's natural disposition and bar the enjoyment of the heart. Indifference to gain or reputation is noble, but total absence of ambition brings no good to mankind.
When in difficulty, a man should recall the day when he first embarked on his undertaking. Any one who is enjoying the fruit of his efforts ought to consider what will be his future destiny.
A wealthy family ought to be liberal and generous, and yet it is apt to be cold-hearted and exacting. This is like a man who is prosperous but lives a humble life. How can it hope to enjoy earthly blessings? A man of sense should endeavour to conceal his talents from public notice, and yet he likes to make a boast of his gifts and accomplishments. This is an example of a man who is talented but plays the fool. How can he be exempt from failure?
It is a man who has been in a humble position that knows best how dangerous it is to rise high. It is a man who has been in the dark that knows best how dazzling it is to emerge from darkness into light. It is a man who has remained in repose that knows best how laborious it is to be active. It is a man who has kept silent that knows best how boisterous it is to be talkative.
It is only when you can get rid of an ambition for honour and wealth that you can lift yourself above the vulgar. It is only when you can give up conscious struggling for virtue, benevolence, and justice that you can hope to rank with the sages.
Desire for gain is not injurious enough to debase the heart completely; a prejudiced view or opinion is, in fact, the canker-worm of the mind. Love of music or beauty is not always pernicious enough to degenerate a man; petty wisdom or sagacity is a barrier to improvement of virtue.
The human mind is fickle and inconstant; the path of life is far from being smooth. Where a journey is hard, therefore, the traveller ought to know when he should go back a pace in order to give way to another; on the contrary, where it is not so difficult and when its end is reached, he should attribute a portion of his success to the help of his companions.
It is easy to treat common people with strictness, but it is hard not to hate them. It is easy to hold superior men in reverence, but it is difficult to deal with them with proper respect without adulation.
Be simple and ingenuous rather than shrewd and sagacious. Cherish the righteous spirit in your breast and return it to heaven and earth when your race is run. Turn away from pomp and luxury and be content with a simple life. See that you leave behind you a fair and enduring name.
Subjugate the enemy lurking in your bosom before you try to conquer evil spirits. The enemy in your breast once subdued, evil spirits will yield and listen to what you tell them. Govern your passions before you would oppose outward temptations. When your passions are brought under control, temptations will have no chance to assault you from without.
In the instruction of your pupils, treat them as a man would his daughters of marriageable age: strict vigilance should be exercised over them in their exit and entrance, taking care lest they should keep bad company. If they be allowed to associate with bad companions, their minds will become like well-kept fields in which are sown the seeds of injurious plants: their mental soil will be so devastated that the cultivation of good cereals will be impossible all through the life.
Never indulge in sensual pleasures because they are within easy reach. Once indulged in, they will plunge you into the fathomless abyss of depravity. On the other hand, do not shrink back from intellectual pursuits, however hard they may be. If you shrink back an inch from these, you will be, at last, distanced from your goal by a thousand mountain barriers.
A man of circumspection not only takes care of himself but pays attention to the welfare of others. He is thoughtful in all points. A careless man, on the contrary, is equally indifferent to the wellbeing of both himself and his fellows. He takes little interest in all things. A superior man, therefore, should not be too fastidious in his tastes nor too indifferent to earthly concerns.
If wealth is his boast, benevolence is my pride. If he glories in his rank, I stand upon my righteousness. A superior man, it scarcely need be said, will never be inveigled by a monarch or a loyal counselor. A man of indomitable will can be master of his fate, while a man of concentrated energy can modify even his own nature and carry all before him. In this way a superior man can be free even from the all-moulding power of the Creator.
In conduct of life, if you do not raise yourself a little above the vulgar, how can you hope to be superior to your fellows? If you fail to do so, your efforts for self-improvement will be as bootless as shaking your clothes in the flying dust or washing your feet in muddy water. In walking through the world, if you do not go back a step to give way to another, how can you hope for your comfort and safety? Otherwise, you would be reckless in your actions like a moth rushing at a lighted candle or like an antelope getting its antlers entangled in a fence.
The scholar should concentrate his energies on one subject of study at a time. In the culture of virtue, if he be ambitious for earthly success and fame, he has no hope of attaining real eminence. In the perusal of books by the ancient sages, if he divides his attention between these and the study of poetry and belles-lettres, there is no doubt but that he cannot be profound in his erudition.
Every man is endowed with boundless mercy: A saint and a hangman are originally of one nature. Every walk of life has its own special taste or delight: the sun shines equally on both palace and cottage. But men are not able to fully enjoy the pleasures of life when their conscience is obscured by avarice and their hearts are frozen by selfishness. If the first step be taken amiss, the error will mislead one to a distance of a thousand ri.
For those who would improve themselves in virtue it is necessary to keep a heart a little like wood or stone; that is, to be indifferent to gain or reputation. If they should envy their neighbors their good luck and hanker after honour or wealth, they will be slaves of avarice. Those who guide the ship of state and are desirous of relieving the masses from distress ought to have tastes like those of a traveling monk. If they are covetous of honour and cling to their power, they are in danger of falling.
A man of perfect virtue does not lose his sweetness, awake or asleep, not to speak of the general air of serenity which characterizes his behaviour; on the contrary, a wicked man not only is vicious in all his actions but bears a sanguinary spirit even in his voice and laughter.
When a man is ill in the liver, he cannot see; when ill in the kidneys, he cannot hear. A disease is contracted in the part of the body where it is invisible, and manifests itself where it is apparent to all men. Therefore, if the superior man would not be guilty of any offence to be made public, he should not commit any crime in secret.
Nothing in the world can be happier than having little to do; on the contrary, nothing can be unhappier than having much to take care of. Only those who are busy know how agreeable it is to have little work to do. Only those who keep their minds quiet and composed know how unhappy it is to have many things to distract their attention.
In time of peace, be upright in your conduct; in time of war, accommodating; in a decadent age, both upright and accommodating. Be indulgent to the good; be severe to the wicked: be both indulgent and severe to the vulgar multitude.
Never remember the good you have done to another; on the other hand, you should remember wrongs you have done to another. Bear in mind a favour you have received from another; on the contrary, you should be forgetful of an injury you have suffered from another.
In bestowing a favour on another, don't be conscious of the benefit, or don't think how grateful the recipient should be, and then even a small quantity of rice presented will be worth a thousand times more than its value. In benefiting your neighbors, don't expect a return for it, or even the gift of a thousand dollars will not be worth a farthing.
Some people are perfectly happy in their circumstances, while others are not. If any one cannot be thoroughly happy in life, how can you alone be so? If you are unreasonable sometimes to others, how can you expect others to be always reasonable to you? To bear this fact in mind, comparing your conditions, physical and moral, with those of your neighborsthis is a wise conduct of life.
Only those who are pure of mind are qualified to read books written by the ancient sages and to get lessons from ancient times. But nothing good can be expected of those who are selfishly ambitious, for their reading is made only for crooked purposes,to find their excuses in the wise acts and remarks of the ancients. Their examples remind us of the common saying, "To lend arms to an invading army or to furnish thieves with provisions."
However wealthy, the luxurious find it hard to make both ends meet. Their lot is less enviable than that of the poor who are thrifty and lay by something against a rainy day. By attempting too many things, the talented are apt to be envied and hated by others. They are less fortunate than the unskillful who are well contented with their lots, though they can do nothing noticeable.
He who reads the books by the ancients and yet cannot grasp their true meanings, is only a bookworm. He who occupies a responsible position in government, and yet does not care for the people with paternal affection, is a thief dressed in the court costume. He who is well versed in ethics and yet does not put his learning into practice, is but a parrot which repeats the Zen doctrines. He who has achieved an exploit which is brilliant to look at but which does not benefit both his age and succeeding generations is not better than a beautiful flower which pleases the eye for a moment.
Every man has a piece of true literature within him, and yet this is sealed up by useless stuff written by the human hand. Every person has a piece of true music in him, and yet its melody is drowned by the vulgar songs and dancing of alluring women. Guarding himself against temptation, the scholar should try to seek after his inborn music and literature. By this means alone can he hope to appreciate what is truly beautiful and sublime.
In adversity, there is always found something that gladdens the mind; in prosperity, one is liable to meet with disappointments.
Wealth, rank, and reputation which take their roots in virtue, may be compared to wild flowers opening in the fields: they flourish and endure long. But those which are attained by superior power may be likened to flowers cultivated in a vase or border: they are subject to removals and turns of fortune; they are rootless and therefore they may wither in the twinkling of an eye.
When spring comes with its genial weather, even flowers and birds can bring joy to our hearts, the former adorning the earth with bright colours and the latter singing with sweet notes. How blessed it is for you, gentlemen and scholars, to rise head and shoulders above your fellows and to enjoy the full measure of felicity! But if you do not endeavour to benefit the world by wise words or wise acts, you may live to be a hundred years old and yet you can scarcely be said to have lived a single day.
Though it is necessary for the scholar to be eager and enterprising in his moral culture, he ought, at the same time, to free his mind from the bond of conventionality. If he is too ascetic in his conduct, he will be like autumn, the spirit of which is to kill, and not like that of genial spring which causes all creation to grow and thrive. How can he hope to be beneficial to his fellows?
A man of true probity is not widely known for the quality itself. The reputation for it may prove the owner to be avaricious. A man of uncommon skill does not resort to artifices. He who does so is in reality an unskillful man.
There is an ancient vessel which is so constructed that when it contains no water, it stands obliquely; when half filled, it stands upright; but when full, it will fall down. There is another antique vessel made of earth and used as a savings-box. It has a small opening, through which coins are dropped. Thus, the former falls when it is full, while the latter is useful because it is empty within. Such is the way of the supreme man. He prefers nothing to something; he is content with want rather than seeking after fullness.
Those who cannot get rid of the desire of fame are nothing but worldings, though they look down with contempt on princes and are content with humble living. Those who are not free from vulgar ambitions have no claim to true greatness, though their exploits may benefit the whole kingdom and succeeding generations; their deeds are after all the ostentatious display of mere skill and accomplishment.
Though a man is sitting in a dark room, if his mind is bright, he will feel as if he were under the blue sky. On the contrary, when his mind is sombre, though he may stand out in broad daylight, he will feel as if surrounded by demons and evil spirits.
Most people feel that the possession of fame and rank is a delight, but they do not understand that it is the real pleasure to be nameless and rankless. Though men know that cold and hunger are human miseries, they are not aware that opulence is a greater ill, for it is not favourable to the culture of moral character.
Though a man has committed a wrong, there is yet some hope for him to be reformed if he fears its detection; on the other hand, he is wicked at heart who has done good and is anxious to make it publicly known.
Inscrutable is the way of Providence. After it has suppressed man, it gives him free scope for action; on the contrary, after it has given liberty to him, it puts him in check; thus confounding heroes and making fools of great men. Adversity is confronted by the superior man with calmness, while security puts him in mind of danger. With such a man even Fate does not know how to deal.
A hot-tempered man is like fire; he burns up everything he touches. A selfish and ungrateful man looks like ice; he freezes everything he comes into contact with. A man who is stiff and obdurate may be likened to stagnant water or a dry tree. As all of these men are lacking in vitality, they cannot be colleagues to those who aspire to do good to the state and to leave, behind them, the benefits of their exploits.
Happiness does not come to a man who courts it; the secret to win it is to have a cheerful spirit. Evil is inevitable when it is destined to come; not to harbor malice to another is the only way to stand aloof from it.
Though a man makes ten predictions and nine of them have been fulfilled, his penetration is not admired as marvellous; on the other hand, if only one of his ten prophecies has not been made good, a thousand faults are laid at his door. Again, though a man may see nine of his ten projects accomplished, the merit is not ascribed to him; on the contrary, if only one of these plans has failed, he becomes the object of public censure. The superior man, therefore, keeps silent instead of being loquacious; content to look artless instead of showing off his talent.
When the spirit of nature is warm, all objects grow; on the contrary, when it is cold, it kills them. It is the same with man. He who is cold-hearted has little of earthly blessings; on the contrary, he who is cheery and warm-hearted enjoys a large share of human happiness, while the influence of his benevolence is long felt after his death.
Broad is the path of divine reason; any one who treads on it will find his heart enlightened and expanded. The way of human desire, on the contrary, is very narrow; any one keeping along it will find his path heavy with mire and overgrown with thorns.
That happiness is secure and enduring which is gained by the alternation of pleasure and pain, for it is the result of a well-trained mind. That knowledge is genuine and true which is acquired by the interchange of belief and doubt, for it is the outcome of intellectual conflict.
The mind should be empty of prejudice; when it is empty, reason comes in and dwells there. The mind should be occupied by reason; when it is occupied, passion and desire never find their way to it.
The soil which is foul and dirty is fertile. Water which is too clear does not allow fish to live in it. The superior man, therefore, should be so large of heart that he bears with the shortcomings of others. He must not be too particular of the choice of his companions, preferring solitude to society.
Even a balking horse which threatens to upset the cart can be coaxed into moving on, if skillfully treated. Even a refractory metal leaping out of the mould, if properly managed, can be finally cast into a useful vessel. It is the same with man. No man is so worthless that he cannot be rendered useful by proper training. Only he who whistles his time away cannot hope to improve intellectually and morally through life. "To be in delicate health," Hakusha says figuratively, "is not a shame, but if I were free from illness all my life, it would make me feel abashed." Significant is the epigram.
Greed and selfishness are fatal to moral character, for these vices render a strong man weak, a wise man silly, a generous man cold, and a man of integrity vile and covetous. Unselfishness was therefore held by an ancient sage as the only treasure in the world, and it is by this virtue that a man can raise himself above his generation.
The senses admit our enemies from without, while passions are our traitors lurking within. If the head of the family (i. e. clear conscience) sits in the central hall, wide awake and proof against temptation, the intruders will turn into obedient members of the family.
It is better to preserve an accomplished enterprise than to make a new venture. It is wiser to guard against the repetition of faults than to repent of bygone blunders.
A man should be noble-minded and magnanimous; and yet he should not be eccentric and cynical. A man should be thoughtful and circumspect; and yet he should not annoy himself with trifles. A man should have a simple and unsophisticated taste; and yet the taste should not be one-sided and dry as dust. A man should be clear and firm in his conviction; and yet he should not be too vehement in its expression.
The wind blowing through a thin bamboo grove causes the foliage to make a noise, but when it has passed, there is no sound left. A line of wild-geese navigating the blue have their shadows reflected in a deep pool of water, but when they are gone, no trace is left there. These phenomena of nature are illustrative of the mood of a superior man. His mental activity manifests itself when something comes up, but as soon as that something is over, his mind is again empty and unoccupied.
To be morally pure and yet indulgent to the faults of others; to be benevolent and yet decisive in character; to be penetrating and yet not too searching; to be upright and yet not to be inexorable;such an attitude of mind may be comparable to a dainty dressed with honey and yet not too sweet, or a dish of marine food which is not too salt to the palate. Such a nature is the perfection of human virtue.
If a humble cottage only keeps its garden well, and if a poor woman only dresses her hair carefully, they have something graceful and refined about them, though they are not fine in their appearance. The same may be said of the gentleman. Though he is in adversity, he ought to keep his dignity, without yielding to despair.
Improve your time in idleness, and then you will get a reserve power for a busy time. Make good use of your time even in solitude, and then you will be prepared for future activity. Do not deceive yourself or another in the dark, and then you will be able to act freely in public.
If an idea springs up in your mind and you are aware that it tends to selfishness, draw it back on the course of righteousness. This is to turn an evil to a blessing or to call the dead to life,a great thing not to be slighted.
When we are unoccupied and our ideas are clear and transparent with that, we can see the reality of our minds. When our spirits are sedate and disturbed with nothing, we can know the real working of our minds. When our tastes are simple and plain, we can perceive the true bent of our nature. These are the three conditions necessary for looking within us and understanding what is the Way; nothing can be better than these for the purpose.
Repose obtained from repose itself is not real repose; only when enjoyed in the midst of action, it shows us the real condition of our own nature. Pleasure derived from pleasure itself is not real pleasure; only when it comes after pain, it enables us to see the true working of our own minds.
Never hesitate in making self-sacrifice, for hesitation takes from its worth, and you will be disgraced by your backwardness. Never look for any recompense for a favour, for the favour as well as the motive will be nullified by the expectation.
What though Fortune should be niggardly to me in the distribution of good luck? I would make up the deficiency by my virtue. What though Fortune should condemn me to hard physical labour? I would find consolation from putting my mind at ease. What though Fortune should plunge me into adversity? I would get over difficulties by keeping to my convictions. When I am armed with such resolutions, what can Fortune do with me?
A man of justice does not court good luck, but Heaven, approving of his integrity, will put him on the path to happiness. A wicked man is constantly occupied with averting evil, but Heaven will confound him by baffling his solicitude. How mysterious is the way of Providence! How futile the contrivances of man!
If a singing girl is married in her after-life and proves herself faithful to her good man, she makes amends for her former wantonness; on the other hand, if a woman, once faithful to her husband, breaks her marriage vow in her old age, she is forever lost. "To make a correct estimation of a man," says the proverb, "look at the latter half of his life." The saying is quite true.
If an ordinary man is merciful and ready to help his fellows in distress, he is a prince without rank or a royal counselor without office. On the contrary, if a man of rank is covetous of power and sells his patronage for ambitious purposes, he is nothing but a titled beggar.
What are the favors left by our ancestors? They are the benefits we are now enjoying, but we should remember that they are the fruits of accumulated hardships. What will be the benefits to be enjoyed by our descendants? They are those which we hand down to them, but bear in mind that the legacies are easy to fly away.
If a gentleman plays the hypocrite, he is no better than a mean man who openly does wrong. If a gentleman deviates from his principle, he is inferior to an ordinary man who, repentant of his faults, turns over a new leaf.
When a member of your family commits a fault, do not fly into a passion or throw him away as worthless. If you deem it improper to tell him frankly of his misdeed, take him to task indirectly. If you cannot make him repentant with all your efforts, wait till another day to repeat your admonition; in doing so, be as gentle as the vernal breeze and a mild air which thaw frost and ice. Such is the exemplary way of ruling a home.
If you keep your mind always tranquil, you will find that everything about you is likewise peaceful. If you keep your heart always generous, you will find that no one is malicious to you.
A man of simple and unassuming manner is ever a riddle to those who are vain and ostentatious. A sober and scrupulous man is generally hated by licentious men. A gentleman should never change his principle or conviction; but on the other hand, he should not express himself too pronouncedly lest he clash against others.
If you are in adversity, all things about you may prove for you to be needles and medicines, which, healing you of moral diseases, are insensibly helpful to the improvement of your virtue. In prosperity, on the other hand, all your surroundings may be as swords and spears, which, though you are unconscious of it, take away all your energy and crack your bones to pieces.
Men brought up in prosperity have animal appetites as ardent as burning fire, and their passion for authority is like an unquenchable blaze. If their cravings and desires are not cooled down by sober and noble ideas, they will be sure to burn themselves up, if not others.
Sincerity carries all before it. One person's sincerity once induced frost to fall in May, and another's caused a castle to topple down by itself. As heat pierces through a metal or a stone, so enthusiasm can do anything in the world. As to false men, they may have all-complete bodies, but their souls are already lost. In the eyes of those who look deeper than the surface, they must appear ugly and abominable: in solitude, they must feel ashamed of themselves.
Brought to perfection a composition has not any striking quality about it, except that its expressions simply appropriate. The same may be said of a man. When his character is perfectly trained, it has nothing conspicuous about it; it simply appears in its reality natural and unaffected.
If all sublunary things are visionary, then even our limbs are also insubstantial, not to speak of reputation, honour, and wealth. If all objects, on the contrary, are real, then not only our parents and brothers, but all things in Creation are one with us. If you can fully realize this truth, and only when you can realize it, will you be able to bear the burdens of a state; furthermore, you will be free from all the bonds and shackles of the world.
All sorts of diet and drink that are sweet and exhilarating are nothing but poisons injurious to our systems; but taken moderately, they do us no harm. All acts of pleasure, when indulged m excessively, betray men into degradation or even into self-destruction; but enjoyed temperately, they will not give you any cause for repentance.
Not to blame another for his trifling faults, not to disclose another's secrets, not to keep the former wickednesses of men in mind,these three rules of conduct will improve your virtue and also put you beyond the reach of evil.
The gentleman should not be light or frivolous in his bearing, or he will be easily moved by external circumstances; so that peace of mind is denied to him. On the other hand, the gentleman should not be too serious in anything, or he will be too often subject to doubts and scruples; so that he is deprived of the powers of freedom and activity.
Though heaven and earth are eternal, we are not born again. Human life is short at the longest; nothing flies more swiftly than time. Therefore, those who have been fortunate enough to see the light should make the most of life; they should consider how miserable it is to whistle their days away.
A favour given to one man is provocative of another's envy. Better it is, therefore, to be above both favour and envy than to oblige a few persons. Patronage gives occasion to enmity. Better it is, therefore, to put us beyond the reach of malice than to make a few men grateful to us.
Diseases in age were all contracted in youth. Misfortunes which one suffers in the decline of life are all the outcome of sins committed in manhood. The wise are therefore most cautious that they may preserve their health as well as prosperity.
It is better to enlist the support of public opinion than to sell private favors; to warm up old friendships than to make new acquaintances; to do charitable acts in secret than to earn a good name for benevolence; to do the duty which lies nearest one than to wait for an emergency to do an extraordinary deed.
Fair opinions and just arguments should not be contradicted; any one who dares to do so will bring disgrace forever upon himself. Houses of influential men as well as dens of ill repute should be equally avoided; any one who visits them will have a stain left on his character.
It is better to be upright and be hated by others than to act contrary to one's conviction in order to humour others. It is better to be exposed to undeserved blame than to win unmerited praise.
When mishaps befall your parents, brothers, or sisters, you should deal with them composedly and with no excess of emotion. On the contrary, when your friends are in the wrong, you should be severe in your reproach; their faults ought not to be connived at.
Not to ignore trifling matters, not to deceive oneself or another in the dark, not to be driven to despair even in failure,this is the distinguishing trait of a true hero.
Even the gift of a thousand dollars cannot always please the receiver; on the other hand, a single meal may make a man feel obliged for his life-time. Excessive love may make an enemy of its object, while a casual favour, though trifling, is apt to make the recipient deeply grateful.
Conceal your skill from the public eye and pretend not to have any talent, and then your merit will reveal itself in time. Don't bring your superior integrity to the front but middle in the mass, and then your virtue will be naturally manifested. This is the secret of getting along in the world, and of standing beyond the reach of malice.
As the desolateness of autumn comes after the luxuriance of summer, so a man's ruin has its root in his time of prosperity. As the fecundity of spring lies concealed in the barrenness of winter, so a man's success takes its rise from his failure. When in prosperity, therefore, the superior man should be careful how to prevent evil; when in adversity, he should be patient and consider how to turn his trials and difficulties to account.
Those who are curious of the strange and delight in the out-of-the-way are lacking in great and lofty ideas; those who take pride in doing painful or hazardous acts others dare not do are generally lacking in constancy of purpose.
When anger is raging like fire or when desire is swelling up like a flood, we are distinctly aware of the two, and can even bring them under control. Now what is it that makes us sensible of our anger and passion? What is it that enables us to conquer both? That is our moral consciousness. If we, therefore, get over our own rebellious passions with determination, we can turn the devil in us into our true ruler.
Don't be deceived by the crafty by putting too much confidence in them. Don't have too high an opinion of yourself, lest you should act with rashness. Don't disclose another's defect in order to display your own forte. Don't be envious of another's talent because of your own inferiority.
Be careful to gloss over another's faults. If you, on the contrary, hold them up to public notice, it will do no good but to reveal your own blemish. If a man is obstinate, you should try to instruct him kindly until he comes to listen to reason. If you, on the contrary, get angry at his stubbornness and hate him, there will be one more obdurate man.
If a man is silent and reserved, refrain from talking freely to him, for such a man may entertain malice towards you. If a man expresses himself arrogantly and vaingloriously, don't cross him, but tie your tongue, for this is the safest way for you.
When your mind is dark and confused, it needs to be awakened. On the other hand, when your mind is too much on the stretch, you must know how to put it at rest. If you fail in doing this, you may get rid of dullness, but probably you may become a nervous man with no definite purpose.
The blue sky may suddenly be agitated by thunder and lightning; likewise a violent wind and a heavy rain may be instantly followed by the cloudless sky and the bright moonlight. How changeable are the skyey phenomena! The least depression in the atmosphere gives rise to a disturbance of the heavens, but it is only of short duration; calmness soon follows it. Thus nature teaches us that we should be in a similar frame of mind.
There are two different views as to the question of how to overcome selfishness. The one says that it requires knowledge to attain self-control and that, unless one knows betimes how inclined one is to selfishness and self-indulgence, one will find it hard to get over those vices. The other asserts that patience is more necessary for the purpose than knowledge, for self-denial can only be the outcome of long struggling, and mere knowledge will not suffice if one is unable to keep up the contest. Now in my opinion, each of these views is one-sided. Knowledge and patience are equally indispensable for self-control. The former is a bright mirror to discover the devil and the latter is a sharp sword to kill it.
When you know that you have been deceived by another, never express your anger in word. When you have received an insult from another, never show your resentment in your looks. Such forbearance has in it an inexpressible meaning; moreover, such an attitude leaves you ample room to act in.
Adversity and want are the crucibles in which great men are moulded. Both physical and moral advantages are given to those who are thus placed; on the contrary, they are denied to those who are not, because neither their minds nor their limbs are disciplined.
Myself am a little universe. Let my passions be moderate and my likes and dislikes be well-regulated, and then my conduct will conform of itself to the laws of the universe, in which the elements are so harmoniously combined. Heaven and earth are the great parents of all creation. If a man acts so as not to provoke the complaint of his fellow-creatures and not to bring disaster on all, he will become a spirit of universal fellowship and benevolence.
You should not harbor any malice against another; on the contrary, you must be wary of another's malevolence, for precaution is most necessary for the conduct of life. It is better, however, to be cheated by others rather than to anticipate their deception, for too much suspicion betokens your being too searching. If you remember these two admonitions, you will see clearly where to look for danger, while you can keep your moral character perfect.
Don't allow your independent opinions to be baffled by the doubt of the multitude; on the other hand, don't be too dogmatic in your own to listen to the views of others. Don't impart private benefits to the prejudice of the public good; don't gratify your selfish ambitions by enlisting public opinion into the service.
If you know a good man, with whom, however, you cannot easily make personal acquaintance, forbear from praising him in public, lest by doing so some envious men may be tempted to abuse him. If you have a wicked man whom you would get rid of, don't take the initiative in that step, for you will probably bring on you an unlooked-for evil.
Examples of loyalty and devotion as glorious as the sun are generally fostered in, and proceed from, deliberate designing in dark rooms. Strokes of statesmanship so illustrious as to shake heaven and earth come forth from those who revolve their schemes as carefully as if they were prying into a gulf from a precipice or treading on ice which will scarcely hold.
The father's kindness to his son, the son's piety to his father, the elder brother's affection for his younger brother, and the younger brother's respect for his elder brotherthese feelings are quite natural and spontaneous: though pushed to an extreme, they are simply what is due to each of the human relations, and not the effect of momentary impulses. If any of these emotions, therefore, were given with a patronizing air on the one side and received with a sense of gratitude on the other, then blood relations would be strangers, and their exchange of love and regard would be like business transactions.
Everything under the sun is dual. Beauty is contrasted to ugliness; therefore, if you do not pride yourself on your beauty, who will say you are ugly? Purity is opposed to impurity; therefore, if you do not boast that you are pure, who will charge you with corruption?
Fickleness is more noticeable in the great than in the humble. Jealousy is stronger among kinsmen than among strangers. In human intercourse, therefore, men should be cool-headed and sedate, keeping their passions down; otherwise, they can scarcely live a peaceful life.
Discrimination between merit and demerit should be strict; otherwise, men will be negligent of their duties. Likes and dislikes, on the contrary, should not be too marked, for those who think themselves not favoured will be disposed to be distrustful and perfidious.
Ranks and titles should not be too high; if they are, their owners are exposed to danger. A strong point should not be displayed to the utmost; if it is, the act will exhaust the energies of the performer. One's conduct and principle should not be too lofty for the vulgar eye; if they are, one will be the object of public envy and reproach.
Evil is the most dangerous when done in secret. Good is the least admirable when performed in public. In other words, evil is less dangerous when it is manifest than when it is secret; good is more laudable when it is occult than when it is public.
Character is the lord of talent; the latter is the servant of the former. He who has talent but not character may be likened to a family which, without a master, is ruled by a servant. What likelihood is there that he may not become a monster and grow savage and atrocious?
When a prince is to drive away his wicked servants or favourite, it will be safer for him to leave them a way of escape. If run down to the ground, they will be desperate and turn against their master, like rats which, finding their holes stopped, gnaw at precious articles in the house.
Faults may be participated in with others, but merits should not be shared with them. If you have merits in common with others, you will attract their hate and jealousy. Adversity is to be borne with others, but prosperity should not be shared with them; for prosperity makes men hostile with one another.
Even though too poor to help others materially, with a single word of solace, a superior man can raise the spirits of those who are silly in embarrassment; with a single piece of advice, he can save those who are in trouble and danger. Such are acts of immense benevolence.
When hungry, people will fawn on us for food, but when pampered, they will leave us, holding their heads high. When we are in prosperity, they run up to us for our patronage, but when we are in adversity, they will forsake us. Such is a weakness common to mortals.
The superior man should look, with a cool head and clear eyes, into the reality of things, He should not allow his stout heart to be lightly moved by any trifling or unfair things.
Virtue advances with the growth of generosity, and generosity is nurtured by the extension of knowledge. If you would, therefore, cultivate your virtue, you must enlarge your generosity, and again if you would enlarge your generosity, you have to extend the circle of your knowledge.
A solitary lamp, like a glowworm, is dimly burning and all kinds of sounds are hushed: this is the time for us to go to bed and lie in calmness. Our dreams have been broken up in the early dawn, but all objects in nature and life are still at rest: this is the very moment for us to get out of our mental chaos. When we reflect, on each of these occasions, with all our passions put down and our bosoms illumined by a new light, we shall see for the first time how our senses are our fetters and how our desires and appetites are all shackles upon the advancement of our virtue.
He who examines himself can turn to account everything that he experiences or comes into contact with, for he can correct himself by the act. He who, on the contrary, finds fault with others, injures himself as if with a sword or spear, for it hinders the cultivating of his moral character. The one opens to him the way for a thousand goods, while the other gives occasion to unnumbered evils. The difference between the two ways is as far as the distance between heaven and earth.
Most exploits and literary works, however great or excellent, perish with their authors, but the noble mind is alive to eternity. Reputation, wealth, and honourthese die away with the process of time, but a lofty spirit is ever fresh to the memory of posterity. A superior man, therefore, makes much of a noble mind and a noble spirit; he never exchanges these for any worldly treasures.
Wild ducks may be caught in a net set for fish. A mantis trying to catch a cicada on a tree is not aware of an enemy in the shape of a sparrow, which is about to fall down upon it from behind. The same is the case with complicated human affairs. Life teems with unlooked-for accidents, which baffle our well-formed plans and contrivances. How unreliable, then, is the ingenuity of man!
A man who is without sincerity will not be better than a beggar. Nothing that he says or does will be believed by his neighbors. A man who is lacking in tact is a mere puppet, and all doors in life will be shut up on him.
When not ruffled by waves, water settles down by itself. When not covered by dust, a mirror is clear. The same is the case with the mind. The only way to keep it clear is to take away whatever beclouds it; then it will become clear and transparent by itself. The quest of happiness is not necessary. If everything is removed that vexes the mind, happiness will follow as surely as day does night.
A sudden impulse may sometimes lead a man to break the commandments of the gods; a single rash word may sometimes disturb the peace of the universe; a single act may sometimes leave the seeds of evil to posterity. Therefore, even a single passion, a single word, or a single act should be paid attention to.
When an inquiry is made in a hurry, it sometimes happens that the facts cannot be ascertained, but when slowly examined, they become self-evident. Don't provoke a man's anger by accusing him hastily. There are some people who can never be coerced into obedience, but if left alone, they may turn over a new leaf and listen to your advice with willingness. Therefore, don't be too importunate in your admonition, for it may make them only the more refractory.
However lofty his pride may be or however excellent his literary compositions, if a man does not have his moral character well trained, his conduct will be nothing but foolhardiness coming from selfishness, while his literary work will be a mere display of useless accomplishments.
The best time for a man to retire from an office is when he is at the height of his prosperity. The safest place for a man to occupy is one which is not competed for by people.
In the cultivation of virtue, pay due attention to trifles. In the distribution of favour, bless those who are never expected to return the kindness.
Better to associate with a simple old man living in the mountains than to keep company with a merchant who only talks of gain. Better to cultivate the friendship of a noble man living in a humble cottage than to wait upon a great man inhabiting a palace. Better to hear the rustic songs of woodcutters and cow-herds than to listen to the gossips of a town. Better to repeat the wise sayings of the ancients and to narrate their admirable doings than to talk of the vices and faults of our contemporaries.
Virtue is the root of success. There can never be any building whose foundation is not stable that can yet have a firm and enduring superstructure.
An upright mind ensures lasting prosperity to the owner's descendants. No rootless tree can ever have a luxuriant foliage.
An ancient sage remarks: "There are some people who, in spite of their vast wealth, imitate mendicants, begging from door to door, bowl in hand." Another sage observes: "Stop boasting of your riches, parvenus. Is there anybody whose oven does not cook him food?" The former saying hints that most men are ignorant of their own resources, while the latter warns one against bragging of one's own possessions. And these two remarks hold good with respect to learning.
The Way is the common property of mankind. It should be, therefore, taught to anyone you may come in touch with. Learning is a thing as common as boiled rice; therefore, as occasion requires, it should be applied wisely to public use.
He who believes another, though the latter is not always true shows that he is true himself. He who suspects another, when the latter is not always false, proves that he is false himself.
A liberal and generous mind is like a nourishing breeze of spring; kissed by it, all living creatures grow and thrive. A hard and suspicious heart resembles the severe north wind; it destroys all things it bites.
An unrewarded good may be compared to a melon growing under the weeds; its result will appear at the surface sooner or later by its invisible growth. An undivulged wrong is like spring snow falling on the garden; its punishment, coming snow falling on the garden; its punishment, coming unnoticed, will reduce the doer to the final destruction.
When you meet an old friend, you ought to treat him with redoubled kindness as if he were a new friend. When you are doing a thing invisible to others, you should keep your mind open and clear, lest you should be misunderstood. When you see a friend who has seen better days, you ought to be more attentive and polite towards him than ever before.
The industrious work hard only for the exercise of virtue, but most men are diligent simply to save themselves from poverty; they do not know the true meaning of work. The thrifty are indifferent to gain, but niggards gloss over their stinginess under the pretense of frugality. The talismans of superior men to keep themselves safe are thus abused by the mean as the instruments of their selfishness. This is a matter for great regret.
He who acts with momentary zeal does things by fits and starts. How can he make incessant improvement, like a wheel which never turns backward? He who sees the truth only through a sudden outburst of enthusiasm may find himself again in the dark. His knowledge of it cannot be as bright as a lamp which constantly burns.
Faults committed by others should be overlooked, but one's own should never be forgiven. A man should bear his own trials and humiliations, but those of others, when he sees them, should never be passed over.
He who is above the vulgar is an extraordinary man, but he is eccentric who is out-of-the-way in his manners on purpose. He who is not influenced by the society of the corrupt is a pure man, but he who stands aloof from his fellows, to keep himself unsoiled, is only a fad, and not a man of genuine purity.
The dispensation of favors should be little at first and then become great. Otherwise, the recipient will not appreciate your kindness properly. The exercise of authority, on the other hand, ought to be severe at first and then be mild. If you are mild at first and then severe, those under you will resent your severity as cruelty.
When the mind is empty, one's nature reveals itself in its real state. A man trying to look into his own nature without putting his mind at rest, would succeed as these who would see the reflected moon by disturbing the water. When thoughts are pure, the heart is equally pure. He who endeavors to keep his breast pure without purifying his thoughts, would be as foolish as a man who tries to see himself reflected in a mirror which he has blurred with dust.
To be respected by others, when we stand high in rank, does not mean that they respect us truly but that they only respect our lofty coronets and broad sashes. To be despised by others when we are humble, does not mean that they despise us at heart, but simply because they see our shabby clothes and straw sandals. What reason, then, have we to be proud of others' respect, if it is not for what we are? Again, what cause have we to resent others' contempt, if it is not for our own parson?
The ancients left a few morsels of boiled rice for rats, and did not light lamps at night, lest moths should be allured thereto and be burnt to death. They did so from a pity for small creatures, and this very benevolence in man entitles him to exist in this world as the soul and head of all creation. Any one who lacks this mercy is a mere carcass not better than earth or wood.
The mind is a little universe. Cheerfulness may be likened to an auspicious star or cloud; anger to thunder or a torrential rain; benevolence to a genial wind or a sweet dew; rigor to the burning sun or the killing frost of autumn. Cheerfulness, anger, mercy, severitywho can be without these emotions? Only what is necessary is to see that any of these passions should not stay too long in the mind but that they should follow one another in due proportion, so as to keep the heart always open and unobstructed. It is only in such a happy state that the mind can be at one with the cosmos.
When nothing happens to annoy us, our minds are apt to be dull and dark. In such a case we ought to illumine our minds by the light of reason, at the same time keeping them in quiet. When an unhappy thing occurs, on the contrary, our minds are liable to become wild and deranged. On such an occasion, we should keep our minds calm and sedate, listening to the voice of reason.
When public affairs is under discussion, men ought, as if they were outsiders, to consider it unbiasedly and with circumspect care. When a public business is conducted, men should devote themselves whole-heartedly to it, regardless of their own interests.
A gentleman holding an important office should have a definite principle. He ought to be strict and righteous in his conduct; to be amicable and sweet-tempered, and not to be wayward and capricious. He should not allow the approach of the depraved; but at the same time, he should not be too severe, to the mean, the stings of whose tongues are as venomous as those of wasps and gad-flies.
Those who advertise honour as their principle will be certain to be blamed on account of honour. Those who announce strict morality as their motto will surely be censured en the ground of strict morality. The gentleman, therefore, takes care not to do anything wrong, nor does he try to earn a good name by advertisements. To live in complete harmony with others with a cheerful spiritthis is the secret of a peaceful life.
Treat a deceitful man with sincerity. Be gentle to a man of violent disposition. Let a selfish and perverse man be instructed in honour and righteousness. In this way you can exercise a beneficial influence upon every soul you come in touch with.
By a single benevolent act can be brought about universal harmony between heaven and earth. By purity of heart alone can a man leave a fragrant name to posterity.
Secret designs, strange habits, eccentric conduct, and out-of-the-way accomplishmentsall these may astonish the world for a short time, but they are not safe, because they may lead men to evil. It is only ordinary virtues and commonplace conduct that enable a man to perfect his nature and to lead a peaceful life.
There is an adage, "In the ascent of a mountain, patience must be exercised on the steep hillside. In a journey along a snow-covered road, patience is also most needed in crossing dangerous bridges." Significant is the repetition of the word patience. The warning holds good to human affairs. When dealing with crafty and insidious men, or when journeying through the rough ways of life, the word must be our watchword; else how can we escape going astray into jungles or falling down into ditches?
Those who boast of their glorious exploits or those who shine only in their masterpieces of literary composition may seem to be great at first sight but they have made themselves conspicuous only by means of external things: they are not entitled to the fame of true greatness. On the other hand, those who keep their conscience always clear like a burnished gem are truly great, though they have not done a single notable deed or have not written a single memorable sentence.
If you are to snatch spare moments from pressure of business, you need, in your leisure hours, to cultivate stability of character. If you would keep your mind unruffled by noisy surroundings, you must learn when you are at leisure, how to make yourself the master of circumstances. There are few men who have neglected this training and yet can keep their will unmoved by any happenings.
Don't let your conscience be obscured by selfish motives. Don't compel others to work for you almost beyond their power. Don't spend up all things, living or inanimate. These three don'ts are the ways to follow the course of nature, to enable all creatures to live in peace and comfort, and leave blessings to your descendants.
There are two words to be remembered by those in office: impartiality and probity. If a government official but be impartial, he can be sound in his judgment; if he but be upright, he has something dignified about him. Again, there are two words for the head of a family: forbearance and thrift. If only he be forbearing, he can keep an equable temper; if only he be thrifty, he will have enough at all times.
These who are wealthy and noble should know what it is to be poor and humble. Those who are in the prime of life should consider how miserable it is to be old and decrepit.
Don't be too strict in keeping your life pure; be large-minded enough to allow the unclean to touch you. Don't be too fastidious in the choice of your companions; be magnanimous enough to associate with all sorts of men.
Never make an enemy of a mean man, for he will turn and do harm to you. Never flatter a superior man, for he is averse to favoritism.
It is easy to cure a man of vice, but it is not easy to cure those who will not listen to reason. It is not hard to remove physical obstacles, but it is difficult to take away moral impediments.
Self-culture should be as complete as well-beaten iron: quick mastery is not profound. Actions should be as decided and forcible as an arrow shot from a powerful crossbow: what is done carelessly and at random does not count for much.
Be hated and blamed by the mean rather than be popular with them. Be censured and rectified by the superior rather than be treated by them with too much indulgence.
An avaricious man oversteps the pale of morality; but as his evil lies on the surface, the harm he does to society is visible and shallow. A hypocrite who is covetous of a good name, on the contrary, acts secretly under the mask of virtue; the injury he gives to the cause of justice is therefore hidden and deep-rooted.
Not to try to repay a favour which one has received from another, however great it may be; to resent a wrong, however trifling it may be; to be ready to believe an injustice ascribed to another, however doubtful the report may be; not to give credit to a good done by another, however manifest it may be,such is the height of frivolity and malevolence.
The injury a slanderer gives us is like a passing cloud which hides the sun from our view; it will soon be off, leaving our reputation unimpaired. The harm a flatterer does to us, on the other hand, may be likened to a cold wind which enters through the chink of the wall; though the injury is great, we are not aware of it.
Trees do not grow upon high and steep mountains, but they thrive where valleys open and wind. Fish do not live in swift streams, but they are found in abundance where pools are still and deep. Nature thus warns us, in human intercourse, not to be too lofty and irreproachable in conduct or to be narrow-minded and impetuous in disposition.
Those who succeed in life and render meritorious services to the state are most of them men who are disinterested and tactful. Those who, unable to seize good opportunities, fail in life are as a rule perverse and obstinate.
In the journey of life, never mingle with the vulgar, yet never go counter to them. Never make yourself odious to others, yet never try to humour them.
The sun is already down, yet the afterglow is dazzling to the eye. The end of the year is at hand, yet ripe oranges on the trees send their sweet perfume all around. Likewise, towards the close of his life, the superior man should try to wind up his earthly career gloriously with redoubled efforts.
When at rest, the hawk looks to be asleep. When walking, the tiger appears to be weak and sick. And yet they only assume such an attitude better to assault their victims. Their examples may be well imitated by the superior man. Only when he conceals his wisdom and keeps his talents out of sight, can he bear the heavy burden of the state and be equal to grave responsibilities.
Thrift is a virtue, but when a man is over-thrifty, he becomes stingy, mean, and unrefined. Humility is another virtue, but an excess of it makes a man too decorous and servile. Moreover, extreme humility often comes from an interested motive.
Don't worry because things go against you. Don't be overjoyed because everything turns out as you wish them. Don't rely upon the permanency of happiness. Don't shrink from difficulties you may encounter at the outset of your enterprises.
That family is not well regulated that is too much given to feasting. That man is not of noble character who indulges in music and extravagance. That person is not loyal who is covetous of distinctions in the government.
Common people consider it the greatest pleasure to follow the inclinations of their minds, but their pursuit of pleasure generally ends in pain. Enlightened men take delight in struggling with difficulties, but their hardship is turned, in the long run, into happiness.
The condition of those who enjoy the fullest prosperity may be compared to a vessel filled with water to the brim; it does not admit of another drop. The state of those who are in imminent danger may be likened to the branch of a tree that is about to break under a heavy weight; beware of adding further weight.
Judge a man with cool eyes. Listen to another's speech with cool ears. Consider your impressions with a cool heart. Inquire into the reason of a matter with a cool mind.
The benevolent are large-minded and quiet, and their generosity are displayed in all their doings. They are happy, and their prosperity lasts for a long time. The mean are narrow-minded and impetuous, and their dispositions are reflected in all their actions. They are therefore unhappy and have nothing beneficial to endure long.
Don't be too ready to believe what a man speaks ill of another. Probably your credulity will be imposed upon by a slanderer to satisfy his malice. Don't be too quick in befriending a man when you hear something good told of him. Ten to one, your rashness will invite wicked men or hypocrites to approach you with interested motives.
Nothing noteworthy is possible for a man who is rash and thoughtless; on the contrary, a thousand blessings will come to a man who is cheerful and even-tempered.
Never be too exacting in the employment of men; if too severe, you will be forsaken even by your well-wishers. Be careful in the choice of your companions; if you are careless, you will be surrounded by flatterers with selfish aims.
When you walk in a storm, you must stand firm lest you should be blown down. This suggests that fortitude is necessary in adversity. When you find yourself surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees, you ought to set your eyes above these allurements. In short, you should not be tempted by sensuous pleasures. When you come to a mountainous path, steep and dangerous, you must turn back your steps at once.
Men of strict integrity, generally being high-spirited, are apt to be disputatious; they should strive to overcome this defect by being gentle and accommodating. Men of great renown, mostly being proud, are liable to incur the jealousy of others; they should try to be humble and thus put themselves beyond the reach of envy.
While holding office in the government, a gentleman should be careful how to word his letters, lest his mind should be looked into by those who are watchful for every chance to win his patronage. When out of office, he must not be too dignified in his mien; he ought to be frank and sociable, treating his old friends with kindness.
Superior men should be respected. If a man holds such men in respect, he will never be wanton and frivolous. Humble people also should be treated with consideration. Attention to the humble frees a man from the blame of arrogance.
When things go against you and you feel despondent, remember that there are many people who are more unhappy than you, and you will cease to complain. When, puffed up with a little success and prosperity, you find yourself relaxing your efforts, reflect that there are not a few persons who are superior to you, and then you will be inspired to more vigorous exertions.
In the transports of joy, do not be too ready to comply with the requests that might be made of you. Under the influence of wine, be slow to anger. After success has been attained, be cautious in attempting further enter rises. Do not get tired of your work lest it should come to an insignificant end.
A careful reader will be interested in a book so deeply that unconsciously he begins to dance out of joy. A keen observer will look through a thing so thoroughly that he is assimilated with it. He will not be deceived by its outward appearance.
Heaven makes one man wise and entrusts him with the instruction of a thousand fools; but proud of his wisdom, he delights in exposing the weakness of others. Heaven enriches one person in order to make him succor multitudes in distress; but boasting of his wealth, he looks down on the poor with contempt. Both of these are truly deserving of heavenly punishment.
A sage has transcendent wisdom and is free from doubt, while an ordinary man is blank of mind and knows nothing. Either of these can be our companion in learning or in enterprise. There are men of middling ability, however, who think and know too much. They are consequently liable to conjectures and suspicions. It is this last sort of men that we find it hard to deal with.
The mouth is the portal of the mind. Keep it closely shut, or else what is to be concealed deep in the mind will slip through it. The will is the foot of the mind to carry the latter's messages. Control it well that it may be obedient to the mind; else, to your harm, it will go astray.
In the reproach of another, try to find something to extenuate his fault, and then peace will come to your mind. On the contrary, though you are faultless, seek to find out some reason to blame yourself, and then you will improve in virtue.
As the child is father to the man, so those youths who have passed the higher civil service examination are the future functionaries of high rank. Therefore, unless they put themselves to severe and thorough training, they will not be able to make themselves useful when they occupy important posts in the government; just as good porcelains or metal vessels cannot be moulded except in a furnace of strong fire.
A superior man will not shrink from any difficulty or trial. He is cautious even at feasting and merriment; he is not embarrassed in the presence of the influential; and his compassion is easily awakened at the sight of forlorn and helpless people.
Though the blossoms of the peach and damson plum are beautiful, how can they match the constancy of evergreens? Though the fruits of the pear and apricot are sweet, how can they be equal to the fragrance of yellow-ripe oranges? Truly, what is dazzlingly fine but short-lived cannot compare with what is sober and of long duration; what is precocious is less valuable than that which slowly grows into perfection.
In a calm sea when no breath of wind ruffles its surface can we see represented the true aspect of human existence. In simple life, to which luxury is unknown, we can look into the real state of our mind.
It is not everybody who talks of the pleasure of a retired life in mountains and forests that can truly realize the delight. Likewise, it is not everyone who declares that he does not care to talk about fame and gain that is absolutely indifferent to both.
Angling is a hermit-like sport, but it means the destruction of life. Chess is a leisurely game calculated to abstract our minds from worldly concerns, but it rouses the spirit of rivalry in the players. These facts show that it is better to do nothing than to bestir oneself in action, and that it is better to be unaccomplished than to be versatile; for the full enjoyment of our life is attainable only by inaction.
The face of nature in spring, when flowers decorate the hills and the songs of birds enliven the vales, is simply a visionary phenomenon presented temporarily by the universe. The true aspect of heaven and earth is visible in autumn alone, when trees are bare, brooks are scarce of water, boulders in the streams, stripped of moss, look thin, and the cliffs on the river banks expose their ragged skins to view.
Years and months are originally long, but the busy souls shorten them. Heaven is high and the earth is spacious, but the mean make them seem small by wrong-doing. The shifting views of the seasons, as represented by flowers in spring, refreshing breezes in summer, the bright moonlight in autumn, and snow in winter, are calculated to do good to the spectator, but they count as nothing to those worldlings who trudge along the path of life.
A landscape does not require a super-abundance of scenic paraphernalia to make it enjoyable; even in a tasteful arrangement of miniature ponds and tiny stones can we find a piece of beautiful scenery. It is not necessary for us to seek far for a charming view; in a humble cottage, with windows overrun with the ivy and with fences built of bamboo, we can enjoy a rural scene which is peaceful enough to put us in imagination far away from the bustling world.
When listening to a distant bell ringing in the silent night, I am awakened from my dreams in this dream-like world. When gazing at the moon reflected in a transparent pool, I fancy that, untainted by anything external, my real self is mirrored there.
The songs of birds and the humming of insects are all signs by which Truth is conveyed to the mind. There is not a petal of a flower nor a blade of the grass that does not symbolize the Way. With his mind, pure and open, and with his heart, clear and transparent, a scholar should be ready to take in anything that serves as mental nourishment.
Most men know how to read written books, but do not learn how to read unwritten volumes. Most people can play a harp with strings, but no one knows how to play a stringless one. If you do not look deeper than the surface, reading with the mind instead of the eye, how can you appreciate a book or a harp?
The mind of a man who has no desires is as empty and spacious as a blue autumn sky or as bright and boundless as the sea in fine weather. Let a man only be possessed of a harp and books, and he will feel as if his dwelling, however poor, were a hermitage or a fairyland palace.
The guests are crowded in the hall and the revelry is at its height. All of a sudden, the water in the clepsydra comes to an end, the candles and the incense go out, and the tea grows cold. All merriment is now gone, and the guests sob at the dreariness of the scene. Now, almost all things in the world may be likened to this. Why do you not, my friends in prosperity, look around betimes and try to live a more significant life?
If only you understand the essential quality of anything, you can know what the Five Lakes look like, though you do not view their fine scenery with your own eyes. If only you realize the workings of human nature, you will be able to trace the motives and designs of all great men, ancient and modern.
Mountains, rivers, and other natural features, say the Buddhists, are doomed to final destruction. Still more is it so with all living creatures. If the physical body is to disappear like the foam of the sea, how can such shadows as wealth, rank and fame endure? Save men of transcendent wisdom, no one is enlightened enough to realize this truth to the full.
To contend for superiority, with human life as short and transient as a spark from a flinthow useless the effort is! To struggle for supremacy in a world as tiny as the tips of a snail's hornshow silly the exertions of states are!
To be content with a dim lamp and a shabby coat which gives no warmthsuch is the act of a would-be ascetic who makes a boast of squalid appearance. To lead a penitent life, with a figure as thin and emaciated as a dead tree and with a soul as cold and callous as ashessuch is the way of a false votary, who is wantonly obstinate and does no good to his fellows.
If a man would quit an active life, it is best for him to carry out his resolution forthright. If he hesitates, he will be beset by no little earthly trouble, though he has procured his son a wife and got his daughter a husband. Nor will he be able to enjoy peace of mind, though he becomes a Buddhist monk or a Taoist priest. "If you desire to quit the world", says an ancient sage, "do so on the spot. If you wait for a good chance, you will wait for ever." The warning is to the purpose.
After our passions have cooled down, if we look back on the time when our hearts burned with desires, we shall see how useless it was to run frantically after shadows. When we leave a busy life and spend our days leisurely, we shall know for the first time how boundless the joy of solitude is.
If we can despise riches and honours, comparing them to floating clouds, we need not dwell in a remote cave as hermits. Joy is always to be found in wine and poetry, though we have no incurable yearning after the beauties of nature.
To leave the vulgar alone in their mad struggling for riches, honours, and reputation, without disliking them for their frenzy; and to live a peaceful life, with little desire for earthly blessings, without boasting oneself to be the only sober man in the worldsuch is the conduct of a man who, as Buddha says, is not fettered by sublunary things nor enslaved by the doctrine of nothingness, but is quite free in both body and mind.
The length of time depends upon our ideas. The size of space hangs upon our sentiments. Therefore, for a man whose mind is free from care, a single day will be longer than a thousand years; for a man whose heart is large, even a small room will be as wide as the space between heaven and earth.
Let us control our passions to the utmost, and plant flowers and bamboos as our day's work, so that we may be thrown back mentally to nothingness. Forgetting those things that are unforgettable to the vulgar, let us spend our days in burning perfumes or making tea. With these joys in our possession, we need not call for wine.
To those who are content, this world is paradise, but to those who are not, it is devoid of any interest. As for all things in the world, they are life-giving to those who make good use of them, while they are destructive to those who fail to do so, driven by selfish motives.
Woe to those men who follow the great or cringe on the influential! For when their patrons fall, they must be involved in their ruin. Fortunate are those who lead a humble and contented life, for their enjoyment, though simple and plain, will be long-enduring.
When sauntering alone in a ravine between the pine-clad hills, I find a cloud springing up at my feet and enveloping my shabby priest's coat. When sleeping at the bamboo window, with books as a pillow, I am awakened to see the moon shining on my old carpet. Such are the pleasures of solitude which anyone can enjoy if only he has a mind.
When burning lust disturbs us, the thought of illness will cool down our passion at once. When our ambition for fame and gain is ardent, the idea of death will show us how vain and empty these things are. If a man, therefore, is always reminded of disease and death, he will be able to keep away from sin and cultivate his moral and religious sentiments.
In a crowded way, if we push on and jostle others, we shall find the path too narrow; on the contrary, if we give way to others, we shall find more room to move in. Rich food is sweet to the palate, but the pleasure is only momentary; while plain cheer gives us enjoyment to last long.
If you would not be disconcerted in confusion, you must train your mind, in time of peace, to keep calm and clear. If you wish to be composed on your death-bed, you should be accustomed to look into the reality of things with a philosophical eye.
Honour and disgrace are unknown to a recluse who dwells in the hills and forests. Friendship based upon virtue is above the turns of fortune.
The heat is not always avoidable, but if only you can forget the summer itself, you will feel as cool as if you were airing yourself at a height. The wolf cannot be always kept away from the door, but if you are not worried with your poverty and privation, you will feel as much at ease as if you had a comfortable home.
When you put forth your foot, consider how to draw it back; then you will escape such a misfortune as the rushing antelope may experience when caught in a hedge by its horns. When you embark in an enterprise, think how to withdraw your hand from the dilemma a man riding a tiger is placed in.
The avaricious, not content with a share of gold, are angry that they are not given a jade; not satisfied with the investure of a peerage, they are covetous of a higher title. Possessed of power and wealth, they are not better than beggars, because their desires are insatiable. On the contrary, to those who are contented, a vegetable diet will be more delicious than a dainty, and a cotton coat warmer than furs. Common people in such a frame of mind are not inferior in happiness to kings and princes.
It is nobler to be indifferent to fame than to be boastful of it. It is better to have little to do than to be skilful and be embarrassed with much work.
Those who love solitude resort to the contemplation of white clouds and mossy stones in order to learn the secret of spirituality. Those who hanker after earthly pomp and prosperity kill their time by music and dancing. Only the enlightened have no need of seclusion or sensuality: wherever they may be, they can find a world congenial to their tastes.
A solitary cloud wanders out of a cave in the mountains; it is restrained by nothing in its movements. A bright moon hangs in the sky; it is above the strife of the elements.
Leisurely repose is not obtainable from good wine but from vegetable soup and cold water. The joy of pensive meditation is not born of a dry and drear way of living but from observing the notes of bamboo flutes or playing on stringed instruments. Thus we see that the enjoyment we derive from luxury is short-lived, while plain living is the source of true and enduring pleasure.
When hungry, I take boiled rice; when weary, I sleep: this is the essential doctrine of the Zen sect. To describe in plain language a fine view presented to the eye: this is the secret of poetry. For the sublimest of all things is contained in the plainest and the hardest comes from the easiest. Whatever is artificial departs from the truth; whatever is unaffected is in agreement with nature.
Though a river flows in full stream, stillness reigns in the neighborhood. Nature thus teaches us that, though our environment is noisy, we can keep our minds serene and unruffled. Though the mountains are lofty, they do not hinder clouds from flying freely in the sky. This also shows us that, though not quite free from earthly cares, we can get into a mysterious state of nothingness.
Though the woods and hills present a superb view, they will become vulgarized when the place is occupied by the rich and their scenery spoiled by architectural designs. Calligraphy and painting are things of refinement, but when they are indulged in to excess, their lovers will not be better than curio-dealers. To him, therefore, who has nothing to yearn after, the bustling world would be as calm as fairyland; while, to him who has something to hanker after, even paradise would be turned into a hell.
When our minds are disturbed in clamor and confusion, we are apt to forget all that we keep in our memory; but when our minds are serene and peaceful, what is long forgotten will rise vividly before our eyes. Thus we shall see that it depends entirely upon our mental attitude whether our breasts are clear or dark.
When I sleep in my cottage in the hills, with coverlets stuffed with rushes, while snow is falling and clouds are flying outdoors, I can keep my mind freshened in the calm air of the morning. When, gazing at the moon, I recite poems in the breeze with a glass of wine in my hand, I shall feel as if I were far removed from the town, with its din and bustle.
If a band of men dressed in court-robes has among them a single hermit from the hills, who carries a stick made of the white goose-foot, the party will bear a look of some nobleness. On the contrary, if a single courtier attired in a glittering uniform is found walking a rural path which is passed through by humble people only, such as fishermen and wood-cutters, an air of vulgarity will be suddenly thrown over the scene. This shows us that the plain is better than the gaudy and that the natural is preferable to the artificial.
The way of being above the vulgar world lies in mingling with it; it is not necessary to avoid the society of men and seek solitude. A clear insight into our own mind may be obtained even by occupying itself with earthly cares; we need not restrain our desires and be an ascetic for the purpose.
I lead a calm and leisurely life, acting as my inclinations direct. How can the ideas of honour or gain mislead me? I keep my mind always at peace, irrespective of whether things are right or wrong or whether or not they are to my interest. How can the questions beguile and embarrass me?
The barking of dogs and the crowing of cocks within bamboo fences in the countryside make me feel as if I were in a realm high up in the clouds. The whirring of cicadas and the cawing of crows, heard outside my study, carries me in imagination to a fairyland where reigns profound calmness.
I have no ambition for earthly honours. How can the bait of large emoluments tempt me? I have no mind to vie with others for official promotion. Why should I fear dangers incident to officialdom?
If you saunter about in a place where the mountains are high, the woods are quiet, and bubbling springs sparkle in the sun, you will feel earthly desires suddenly leave you. If you have books and pictures as your constant companions, your mind will be abstracted from worldly concerns. Therefore, though superior men do not amuse themselves with curios, indulging in which is apt to make one silly, they can keep their minds quiet and well-balanced in communion with nature.
In spring time, nature is gaily attired, while the sweet and exhilarating air makes the heart leap with joy. But I like autumn better than spring, and the reason of my preference is this: the cool season braces us bodily and spiritually, with the sweet perfumes of the orchid and the fragrant olive filling the air, and with the bright moonlight reflected in river or lake; so that both sky and water, taking one colour, are deluged with a silvery radiance.
He who has poetical instinct is a born poet, though he be utterly illiterate. He who has an innate proclivity for Dhyana can realize the secrets of zen (religious meditation), though he is not able to compose a single verse of Gatha.
When the mind is in disquiet, the shadow of a bow on the wall, reflected in a glass of wine, may be taken for a serpent, as was the case with a man of old. Everything seen or heard will appear so hostile that even a stone lying in the grass might look like a crouching tiger. But when the mind is at peace, one could make even such a tyrant as Sekiko as tame as a sea-gull, as a man once said of a certain Buddhist saint who had a potent influence over the wicked ruler. Even the croaking of frogs may sound to the ear as melodious as music. Such a happy frame of mind gives one a glimpse of the Truth, at the same time enabling one to realize the mysteries of nature.
My body is like a boat adrift; let it be carried away by the tides or let it float into an eddy and stop there. My mind may be compared to a piece of half-burnt wood; it does not matter whether it is used for fuel or made into an idol varnished with a perfume.
We are naturally pleased when listening to the song of the nightingale and disgusted when hearing the croaking of frogs. Again, the sight of a pretty flower naturally disposes us to cherish it; but when we come across a weed, we are inclined to uproot it. All our likes and dislikes are controlled by the mere observation of the externals of things. We ought to know that every object of nature is only trying to fulfil its own destiny in accordance with its living principle.
What though my hair falls off and my teeth grow fewer? I do not care for my outward decay, for this body of mine is merely temporary and visionary. Such is the course of nature with us, just as the birds sing and the flowers smile in the sunshine. What is most important for us is to have a true knowledge of our reality, divested of its external trappings.
To those who have desires, even a deep pool of water would appear as if ruffled by waves; they would be insensible to the silence of the woods. On the contrary, those who have no cravings would feel cool in midsummer; even in a town, unconscious of its din and bustle.
He who hoards much loses as much when he is overtaken by adversity. Remember, therefore, that the poor who have little are more blessed than the rich. He who walks with long strides is apt to fall down; this teaches us that obscurity is preferable to distinction, for it is the humble alone that can enjoy constant peace.
To read the Book of Changes at the window in the early morning, rubbing a stick of vermillion on an ink-slab with dewdrops from the pines; or to talk about the Sutras with a visitor in the still air of noontide, striking the kei, the echoes of which are wafted far away by a breeze sweeping over the bamboo groves: these acts abstract the mind from earthly concerns.
Note.kei is a musical instrument made of stone and used by Buddhist priests when chanting a Sutra.
Flowers in a pot are devoid of vitality. Birds in a cage lack naturalness in their notes. Better are the mountain flowers that grow promiscuously and present a sight of confused beauty. Better are the birds in the woods which flit about without restraint. It gladdens the heart of the spectators to see these flowers or to listen to these birds, for they are in full enjoyment of their freedom.
Only because men put too much importance on the word Self, they have various desires and various passions which annoy them. An ancient sage says, "I do not know the existence of self; therefore, all things in the world are the same to me, for it is selfishness that discriminates between things." There is a saying by another sage, "If a man truly realizes that his body is not his own, how can he be vexed by passions, the outcome of self-love?" These remarks I believe to be quite true.
Imagine yourself to be an old man who, tired of the world, looks back on his youth, and you will find the spirit of competition leave you. Suppose yourself to be a man of broken fortune who gazes back with grief on his former prosperity, and you will cease to be ambitious of pomp and magnificence.
Inconstant are the human mind and social conditions: they are subject to sudden changes in multifarious phases. Your view of them, therefore, should not be biased: you are warned against too much confidence in them. "What I once boasted as mine," says Gyofu, "now belongs to another. I wonder who may be the next owner of what I have at present." True! If you always remember this reflection, I hope, you may be free from worry and vexation.
When you are busy, with your brain heated with arduous work, try to be cool and composed, and then you may be spared a great deal of worry. When everything is against you, don't be dejected, but warm your heart with enthusiasm, and then you will be much interested in your pursuit.
Everything under the sun is dual. If there be pleasure, there is pain in its train. If there be a piece of fine scenery, there is an unsightly bit somewhere near by, as its counterpart. Real comfort is to be found only in a humble cottage where pomp and luxury are unknown.
Viewed from the window of a high building, the volumes of white clouds are swelling up from the blue mountains and broad rivers far off. How free the movements of nature are! The dense bamboo-grove near by is a haunt of swallows and doves, their appearance signalizing the change of the seasons. The contemplation of nature, with its grandeur and loveliness, sometimes enraptures me to such an extent that I am unconscious of myself and the world.
Anyone who knows well that all accomplished things always end in failure, will never be too eager for success. Anyone who is well convinced that all die who have lived, will never be too assiduous in preserving his life.
A Buddhist saint of old remarks: "The shadow of the bamboo trembling in the wind sweeps the door-steps, and yet it does not stir up the dust on them; the disc of the moon reflected in the lake goes down through the bosom of the waters, and yet it does not leave any mark on them." One of our Confucians says; "Though a river runs swiftly, silence reigns over the neighborhood; though the flowers are briskly shed, the beholder's mind is not disturbed thereby at all." If a man takes such lessons from nature in the conduct of life, how free and unrestrained he will be both physically and spiritually!
Listen to the whisper of the wind blowing through the pine-trees or to the murmur of a stream running over the stones: we may observe that in them there is the music of nature. Gaze at the wreath of smoke creeping under the green grass or at the shadow of clouds reflected in the water: we know that the universe has its own masterpieces of literary composition.
They have seen the prophecy fulfilled about a pair of bronze camels which once stood in front of the palace of the kings of Western Shin and afterwards were abandoned in the jungle with the downfall of the dynasty; yet they pride themselves on the possession of a mighty army. They know that, at their death, their limbs are bound to feed the beasts of the field in the cemetery of the Northern Hill; yet they are covetous of gold. "Wild beasts can be domesticated," says the adage, "but the human mind is not easy to subdue; deep valleys can be filled up, but the avarice of man cannot be gratified." True is the remark.
If your breast is quiet and free from spiritual tempests, you will feel as if seeing blue mountains and green trees at every turn. If you act like Mother Earth who, with her boundless kindness grows and nourishes all creation, you will find all about you free and spontaneous as are fish jumping out of the water or kites circling in the heavens.
If a dignitary in the court robe comes across a rustic wearing a bamboo hat and straw rain-coat and looking quite at ease, perhaps he may yearn after the pleasures of a humble life. If a man sitting on luxurious carpets accidentally sees a scholar who is reading leisurely in his small study, well-kept and admitting much light, he will probably be moved with envy. Why do not people, instead of liking artificiality, try to live simply according to the bent of their nature?
Fish swim in water, but they appear to be unconscious of the element. Birds fly in the face of the wind, but they look unmindful of its resistance. The observation of these facts will teach men to be above the world and its worries, while enjoying themselves in probing the mysteries of nature.
A fox is sleeping on the moldering terrace steps and a hare gambles about in the ruined palace. On the spot was once held a mighty court, enlivened by a round of pleasures, such as music and dancing. In yonder wilderness, dewdrops are glittering on the yellow chrysanthemum petals, and mists hover over the withered grass. The place was once the scene of a decisive battle. How inconstant human destiny is! It is now idle to speak of the comparative strength of both armies, and this reflection leaves our hearts as cold as ashes that are dead.
Honour and disgrace count as nothing to those who are well convinced of the inconstancy of fortune, well symbolized by the opening and fading of the flowers in a garden, a phenomenon on which they gaze with equal indifference. Whether they are in office or out makes little difference with them: they behave like clouds which scatter or enroll themselves with each turn of the wind. As if it were not enough that there should be a boundless universe with azure sky and pearly moonlight to entice the moths, they flit bedazzled into the candle's flame. As if there were not ample springs and pastures green where owls may sip and feed, they have a liking for rats which are dead. Alas! among the human race, how few there are who are not moths or owls!
As a raft is used for crossing a river, it may be dispensed with on reaching the other side. It is the same with reading. When a man has learned the truth through a book, the volume may be thrown aside as of no further use. He who does so is a true scholar. On the contrary, he who, unaware of the existence of the Buddha in his mind, worships at Buddha's image for the purifying of his mind, is like a fool who is riding an ass and yet seeks for another. Such a man has no understanding of the truth, though he professes himself to be a Zen priest.
Here, the great, with their ambitions soaring up the sky like dragons, vie for power; there, heroes, gallantly fighting like tigers, struggle for the victory. But looked at with an undiscriminating eye, they seem like ants swarming on carrion or flies attracted by the smell of blood. Selfish ideas and conflicting interests give rise to a variety of puzzling questions and to heated disputes, and yet if dealt with by a cool and unbiased judgment, these problems will solve themselves as readily as iron is melted in the forge or snow in hot water.
When our minds are fettered by earthly desires, we realize how miserable our existence is; on the contrary, when our minds are free from cares, we find how enjoyable our life may be. Earthly desires will die within us instantly when we realize how they embitter our life; on the other hand, when we know how to make our life happy, we shall naturally attain the mental attitude of a sage.
If a man eschews all earthly desires, his mind will be free and spontaneous, without vexing himself about the artificial distinctions between good and evil or right and wrong; just as snow melts near a burning hearth or as ice does in the sun. The mind is free to act when undisturbed by worldly passions: it is then clear and transparent, just as the moon shines brightly and serenely in the blue, though her reflection in the water is broken up by the waves.
A poetical inspiration rises most readily on a rural bridge, such as that at Haryo. The poet's imagination will make the neighboring woods and mountain caves look larger in the poem than they really are. A pastoral feeling is aroused most naturally by a lonesome lake far away from a town, such as Lake Mirror. When sauntering round it, unattended, one is fascinated by the surrounding hills and streams, which enhance the beauty of the water.
Those birds fly the highest that have long been lying on the ground. Those flowers fade the earliest that bloom in advance of all others. Anyone who is well convinced of this simple truth will be free from failure, because he will not act in an impulsive hurry.
When the trees become bare in autumn and disclose the nakedness of their trunks and roots, we know that their leaves and flowers are mere trappings. After men are dead and their remains are put in coffins, together with their earthly concerns, we know that, however rich they may be in children, or however large their fortunes, all these are of no avail to them.
Underlying all objects of sense are their realities, which are not transient and visionary. While it is a mistake to regard all phenomena in this world as real, it is no less erroneous to consider them illusionary. What did Buddha say on the subject? He preached the doctrine of metempsychosis. Though the son of the earth, man should be spiritually above the things of this world. It is painful to be enslaved by desires and passions, but it is no less painful to suppress them entirely. Listen, then, to my advice. The best way is to bring our desires and passions to bear on the improvement of virtue.
A man of strict justice would decline an offer for a principality, if his conscience did not approve the acceptance; on the contrary, a covetous man would quibble over a penny. The difference between the two cases is attributable to the disparity between their characters, but after all, the desire for a good name does not differ materially from the desire for gold. Kings bestir themselves to enrich their states, while beggars cry bitterly for crumbs of bread. The difference between their positions is as great as the distance between heaven and earth, but in the matter of pain, what distinction is to be seen between the one who racks his brains for the good of his kingdom and the other who shouts himself hoarse for bread?
Those who are well acquainted with the ways of the world think little of the frivolity of men, who are generally as fickle and capricious as the weather: they do not care even to glance about them. Those who know well what is human nature allow others to call them hard names: they merely nod to any unkind remarks about them made by their neighbors.
The total annihilation of thought and desire is the mental attitude most eagerly sought after nowadays by devout students of Buddhism, but their efforts prove futile after all. There is the only way for the purpose. Do not look back on the past, nor anticipate the future, but take whatever is brought forth by the present and endeavour to dispose of it as best you can. Then naturally and slowly can you attain the goal.
Spontaneity is the best frame of mind. The charm of a thing is found only when it is in a natural state; let ever so little artificiality be added to it, and the spell will be broken. Haku Rakuten says in one of his poems: "The mind is in full play when disturbed by nothing; the breeze is the cleanest that is untainted." How significant the remark is!
Only let the mind be clear and transparent, you can then be at ease physically and spiritually, though you may live a common life. On the contrary, if the mind yields to temptations and goes astray, it would be quite useless to talk of Dhyana1 or to compose Gatha2; such acts would simply be sporting with one's own soul.
1. Religious meditations. 2. Buddhist verses.
If a man knows how to understand the truth, he is able to enjoy himself without the aid of music; he can keep himself pure of heart and clean of body without having recourse to tea or perfume. Purge the breast of earthly passions, leave the mind empty by keeping desires down, get rid of cares and worries, and do not submit the body to any inconvenience. Only by this way can one find oneself in the blessed state of mind as mentioned above.
As gold comes out of an ore and a jewel from stone, so we cannot get at the truth unless we mingle with this gross and materialistic world. To seek after the truth in the glass, keeping aloof from the bustling world, or to commune with a genius for the same purpose in a fairyland of flowersthese pretensions may sound poetical and high-toned at first sight, but the sentiment is not, after all, free from vulgarity.
All objects in the universe, all phases of human passions, and all happenings in the worldwhat variety, what diversity, and what complexity exist in these when viewed with a vulgar eye. But regarded with transcendent eyes, they are all the same in their reality; their apparent confusion is nothing but regularity. What distinction is there to be drawn between them? What need is there of preferring this to that?
Note.The whole idea comes from Chuang Tzu.
If the mind is in full play, as is a well-trained mind, one can catch the mighty and soothing spirit of the universe, though one's bedding be but cotton. If one is not fastidious in taste, one can appreciate the charms of the simple life, though one may live on coarse cheer.
It depends solely upon the mood of our minds whether or not we are fettered by worldly passions and desires. If you are but content with your condition, your surroundings, though soiled by the presence of butchers and wine-dealers, will appear to you a paradise. On the contrary, if you are worried with earthly desires, though you may have refined tastes, having as your companions a harp, a crane, or flowers, you will ever remain a victim of the devil. "The complete understanding of the truth turns a vulgar place into a sanctuary," says the Buddhist verse; "on the contrary, the abode of a priest who has no light differs in no wise from that of a layman's." There is more truth than meets the eye in this observation.
What though we should live in a small cottage? Should we be free from all desires, we need not envy so magnificent a palace as that depicted by the ancient poet, the lofty top of which arrests flying clouds and in which crystal blinds upstairs are rolled up for the enjoyment of the rain. When the three glasses of wine have awakened us to a glimpse of the truth, to quote another poet, we know that there is only one genuine pleasure in the world, and that is striking a harp in the moonlight or playing on a flute in the cool, refreshing breeze.
When all nature is hushed, the sudden singing of a bird will strike us with a deeper sense of stillness. After all the other flowers are gone late in spring or autumn, the discovery of a lingering flower will bring home to us the inexhaustible vitality of nature. The same is the case with the human mind. However inactive or dead it may sometimes appear to be, the mind, in emergency, may be roused into full activity.
Haku Rakuten says in one of his verses: "We had better allow our bodies and minds to follow their natural inclinations, with destiny as our only guide." Cho remarks in a quite different strain: "We should most strictly control our bodies and minds and lose ourselves in profound meditation." Neither observation, it seems to me, is right. For the self-indulgent are apt to run to wildness, while the ascetic are liable to be too austere and inactive. Those who know how to regulate themselves well both physically and spirituallyit is only these men who can take a mean course without running to extremes.
When the moon shines brightly on the snow-covered earth, the mind naturally feels calm and purified. The genial breeze of spring, rendering the air sweet and crisp, softens our hearts into serenity. Potent is the influence of nature over the human mind, and this proves that there exists a sympathy between nature and man.
Skill in literary composition is attained by beginning with plainness. The same may be said of moral culture; affectation, in the first place, must be avoided. No end of significance attaches to the word plainness. There is a description of rural life: "The barking of dogs is heard in the village full of blossoming peach-trees, while the crowing of cocks rises among the mulberries." Though the description has no rhetorical flourish, how suggestive it is of rural repose! There is another delineation of nature written in a quite different tone: "The moonlight is mirrored in the icy bosom of the lake, and a solitary crow is cawing on an ancient tree bereft of its leaves." The invention may be clever, but an air of decay and dreariness is observable in the expression.
Be the master of circumstances, and you shall be above the question of gain and loss; the universe will be your playground. On the contrary, let circumstances be your master, then every turn of fortune will agitate your mind; even a thing so trifling as a hair will be an encumbrance to you.
Spontaneity is the greatest joy of a recluse. For him, therefore, drinking is the most delicious when the glass is not exchanged between host and guest; chess is the most enjoyable when played without any idea of rivalry; the flute sounds the sweetest when the note is not marked; the harp pleases the ear best when the tune is not paid attention to; the meeting of friends is most cordial when done without appointment; and the reception of visitors is most hearty when greeting and farewell are dispensed with. If trammeled ever so little by formalities, he will be thrown back at once to the bustling world, and his life will be embittered.
If we consider what our state before our birth could be and what our bodies will become after our death, all our thoughts and aspirations will turn as cold as ashes: we shall be convinced that the soul alone remains immortal through eternity. Such a reflection would abstract our minds from mundane affairs, and we should be able to range freely in a spiritual world.
To realize after an illness how great a treasure health is and to learn after war how boundless the blessing of peace isthis is not foresight. To know that the quest of happiness may entail an evil or that an attempt at longevity may only be the cause of shortening lifeis this not an example of clear-sightedness?
With the help of powder and rouge, actors disguise themselves so deftly that they may look pretty or ugly as they wish. But what is the use of the brush when, in an instant, the orchestra is silent and the curtain is down? Chess-players vie keenly with each other for supremacy, but when the game is soon ended, where is the victory so hotly contested for?
It is only men of quiet life that can freely enjoy the beauties of nature, presented by wind, flowers, snow, and the moon. Again, it is only men of leisure that can justly appreciate such charms as are displayed in the shifting scenes of trees growing on the water's edge or bamboos standing among the stones.
Poor peasants are delighted when they are told of coarse cheer and drink, but they cannot answer when asked about the taste of delicacies. They are interested in the account of cotton clothes, but they do not know how the court robe looks. Their rural life making them simple and contented, they have little to desire. Theirs is, indeed, the best state of human existence.
If the mind is free from impure or depraved ideas, what need is there of introspection? Such a process of self-examination as taught by the Buddha only bewilders the mind and defeats its own object. All things under the sun are originally one and the same in their reality. Then what need is there for trying to identify them? Yet Chuang Tzu dwells on the identity of contraries. This is a useless attempt at dividing one in two.
It is only a superior man who can tear himself from a banquet when merriment, aided by music and song, is at its height. Such a man is enviable like a person who, with his arms extended, can walk composedly on the brink of a dangerous precipice. The night is far advanced and the water-clock is about to be stilled, and yet there is seen a man who is continuing his weary journey on the path of life. Our compassion is awakened for this worldling who thus makes a hell of earth.
If your self-denial is not strong enough to oppose all temptations, leave the busy world awhile, to stand aloof from any enticing objects, and try to keep your mind sedate and undisturbed. But when your self-control has become strong enough through strict mental discipline, mingle with the bustling world again, and foster the power of free acting, so as not to be tempted by any allurements.
Those who like tranquility and hate the clamor of life are apt to shirk society to keep themselves quiet, but they do not know that absolute solitude is conducive to egotism and that desire for inaction is liable to revert to a thirst for activity. How can they attain that happy attitude of mind in which the distinction between self and another is obliterated and the idea of motion and repose is lost sight of?
Retirement in the mountains clears our hearts of all earthly cares and troubles: any object we see or hear awakens in us a pleasurable sentiment. If we gaze up at a solitary cloud wandering in the blue or a crane in flight, we shall feel as if transported beyond the world. If we look down on a limpid stream running over its stony bed, we shall feel as though our bosoms were purged of all unclean thoughts. If we touch a cypress of centuries or a blossoming plum-tree which braves frost and snow, we shall feel manliness strengthened in us. If we keep company with wild gulls swimming in the sandy stream or with deer roaming in their innocence, we shall feel all our ambitions suddenly leave us. But let us turn our backs to these quiet scenes and run into the bustling world, and we shall find all things to be annoying though they have no concern with us; even our persons we shall find to be an encumbrance to ourselves.
When my interest is casually roused, I will roam about barefooted in the fields covered with fragrant grass; then wild birds, not fearing me, will come and keep me company. When my mind is in unison with nature, I will seat myself cozily and abstractedly in a shower of falling petals; then the white clouds will enwrap me as if urging me to stay longer with them.
All the good and evil of human life arise from one source, the mind. For this reason, says the Buddha: The inordinate craving of gain plunges a man into the fiery pit; exorbitant avarice and affection turn this world into a hell. On the contrary, the Sage goes on to say: A clear mind, free from temptation, quenches the blaze of passions, and makes itself a pool of cold water; a sudden awakening to the truth brings to yonder shore the boat which has been tossed about in the sea. Thus, a slight difference of mental attitude brings about a sudden change in our circumstances, for better or worse,a fact that should be borne in mind.
By constant rubbing, even a saw made of ropes can cut wood asunder, and by constant dripping from the eaves, rain-drops bore a stone. In the study of the truth, the student should learn this lesson from nature. But constant application alone is not sufficient for the purpose. As water flowing on the ground naturally makes a gutter, and as a melon, when fully ripened, drops from its stem, so a glimpse of the truth must be left to an inspiration which bursts upon the learner.
If we stand aloof from the combat of life, we shall feel the bright moonlight and a refreshing breeze come into our bosoms: though we should mingle in the bustling world, we shall have nothing to annoy ourselves. If we abstract our minds from worldly concerns and roam about in imagination beyond the limits of the earth, no noise of traffic will reach our ears. What need is there for us to have the love of nature as our chronic disease, to borrow the words of the poet, and to take refuge in the forests and the hills?
No sooner have the trees lost their leaves and the grass withered in autumn than new sprouts begin to burst out from their roots. Though in the dead of winter, the genial spirit of spring is already stirring under snow and frost, for the power of growth is greater than the force of destruction. And this, be it remembered, is the mighty soul of Nature.
Seen after rain, the verdure of the mountains is deeper and fresher. Heard in the silence of the night, a bell sounds clearer and more sonorous.
Ascending a height broadens our minds: looking over a stream makes us feel removed from the realities of life; reading books at night, when it is raining or snowing, purifies our hearts; and reciting poems on a hill-top transports us beyond and above the busy world.
To the broad-minded, vast emoluments are as worthless as broken potsherds; to the narrow-minded, even a hair will look as large as a wheel.
Natural scenery, to be perfectly fine, must have paraphernalia, such as wind, moon, flowers, or willow-trees. Likewise, the human mind cannot be complete in its working without passion, appetite, and taste. Only what is needed is that man should be the master, and not the slave, of these emotions; then his desires and cravings will act with reason and with moderation.
He who is self-satisfied and seeks nothing beyond himself, does not interfere with all external things; he leaves them alone. He who rules a kingdom well by inaction does not claim the merit himself, but attributes it to the mighty virtues of heaven and earth. Such a ruler may be said to be above the world, occupying the status of a sage.
When a man is at leisure, he is apt to be seized with evil or loose ideas; on the contrary, when he is too busy, he cannot manifest his nature in its real condition. It is, therefore, most necessary for a gentleman that, while attending to his culture, physical and moral, he should leave a margin to his bustling life by communing with Nature.
The human mind, actively occupied, is apt to go astray. When we sit down quietly, with no idea to agitate the mind, we can commune with nature. If we see a cloud appearing on the horizon, we shall follow it in its wandering in the blue. If we hear rain dripping from the eaves, we shall feel our bosoms cooled and purified. If we listen to birds singing, we shall be cheered up by their songs. If we see flowers falling, we shall know that anything flourishing cannot last long. Thus, when we are in communion with nature, what spot or what object is there that does not teach us something about the truth?
At the moment when a child is born, the safety of the mother is at stake. When immense wealth has been amassed, a thief is watching for a chance to steal it. What joy is there that is not a cause of sorrow? When a man is poor, he is thrifty and can live in competence. When he is in delicate health, he takes care of himself and can live long. What adversity, then, is not a blessing in disguise? The wise, therefore, look upon weal and ill with equal indifference, putting considerations of joy and sorrow out of the question.
As a hurricane roaring in the valley leaves nothing behind it, so if the ear does not stick to whatever it hears, we shall not be troubled with artificial distinctions between right and wrong. As the moon reflected in a pond marks only the water with its silvery hue, so if the mind is empty and has nothing to disturb its equanimity, the difference between self and outside things will be lost sight of.
Tortured by their unquenchable thirst for gain or honour, people are apt to curse this existence, calling it a dusty or a bitter world, but have little idea how to enjoy life. Lo! the clouds are white; the mountains blue; the streams run; the stones stand in queer and fanciful shapes; the flowers greet us with a smile; the birds cheer us with their songs; wood-cutters break the sylvan silence with their merry singing; and the valleys echo to these sounds of nature and man. This world is not such as they represent. Their grumbling comes only because they make their own minds dusty and bitter.
The flowers are at their best when they are half open; wine tastes the sweetest when the drinker is not too much intoxicated. The golden mean is all-important. Full-blown flowers look melancholy, for their fullness is associated with decay in the mind of the spectator. The sight of a drunken man is merely shocking. Those who are in full enjoyment of prosperity may take warning from these cases.
Wild vegetables are not given water and manure, but their flavor is exceedingly delicious. Wild birds are not fed, but their flesh is most agreeable to the palate. It is the same with those who mingle with the vulgar and yet are above their evil influences. Are not their characters noble and inspiring?
Cultivating flowers, planting bamboos, fondling cranes, and looking at swimming fishall these pastimes should be performed with the object of moral training, taking notice of their ennobling influences; on the contrary, if indulged in for mere amusement, they are an example of superficial learning ridiculed by Confucians, or of the consideration of all things as vain and empty, as asserted by some Buddhists. Of what worth are such modes of recreation?
Those who are retired in the hills are content with honest poverty, and yet they are rich in ennobling pleasures peculiar to rural life. Poor peasants may be plain and simple in their manners, but their virtue lies in their very naivetι. It is better to keep a pure heart and to perish in a ditch than to mingle with, and be corrupted by, the riff-raff of a town.
An undue portion of good luck or an undeserved gain is either Heaven's bait or a man's trap to decoy you into ruin. Look higher and keep aloof from the snare, or you will have little chance of escaping the danger.
Human life may be compared to a marionette. We are but puppets manipulated on a stage, but so long as the wires are tightly held by ourselves, their movements are entirely under our control. In other words, the free and independent action of our will renders us immune from the contaminating influences of the world.
Every affair under the sun entails some evil or other; therefore, what is the best in the world is peace. An ancient poet says: "Do not speak in eulogy of a newly-created peer; while the meritorious services of a general are recognized, the bones of ten thousand men are bleaching on the battlefield." Another poet of old makes the sword talk in this strain: "If permanent peace were ever to prevail in this world, I would rest contented in my scabbard for a thousand years." A serious reflection on the immense waste of lives in battle, without bringing any material benefit to mankind, would quench human ambition for fame and honour; an ardent desire for adventures would cool down, as ice or hailstones are melted by the sun.
Swept by tides of emotion, a loose woman may sometimes become a nun. Disappointed in his ambition, a man of enthusiasm may sometimes find his way to a monastery. Sanctuaries are thus liable occasionally to be hiding-places for the lewd and the depraved.
The roaring waves are kicking at the sky, but the men in the boat are not aware of their impending peril; the sight, however, fills the beholders on the shore with fear. A mad drunkard is cursing and swearing at a dinner, but others present suspect no danger; the outsiders, however, make wry faces at the riotous scene. The moral of these examples or parables is that, though busied with earthly concerns, the superior man ought to be spiritually outside them, unconcerned with the cares and vexations of the world.
The less we have to do in life, the higher shall we rise above the world. Have a small circle of friendship, and we shall have less trouble and entanglement in society. Be few in our words, and we shall have fewer mistakes and misunderstandings. Be limited in our thoughts and worries, and we shall have less waste of our energies. Spare the working of our senses, and our nature will be in freer play, as we have less occasion to be annoyed by our surroundings. Those who increase the amount of their work daily, instead of decreasing it, only make fetters and shackles of their lives.
The rigor of winter and the heat of summer can be avoided, but the inconstancy of the human mind is hard to deal with. Nay, another's fickleness is easy to escape from, but it is difficult to get rid of our own inconsistency. If we can keep our minds firm and constant, we shall find eternal peace in our bosoms; wheresoever we may be, we shall feel as cheerful as if we were in the vernal breeze.
My tea is not excellent, but I have enough of it in the pot. My wine is not superb, but the cask is always full. My lute, though plain, is harmonious in its tunes. My flute, though short, gives a note melodious enough to amuse me. In enjoyment of simple pleasures, though I cannot surpass Fuku Gi (Fu Hsi), the primitive monarch, I flatter myself that I am a match for Kei (Hsi) and Gen (Juan), who were among the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove.
The Buddha's teaching, Adapting oneself to circumstances, and our Confucian precept, Doing what is due to one's situation, rich or poor,these sayings are the life-buoys indispensable for navigating the rough sea of life. Boundless are the paths of human existence; in our journey along them, we are bound to meet with numberless rubs and obstacles. If we long for perfection, we shall be annoyed with a thousand worries. On the contrary, if we are contented with our lot, there is not any position in society but gives us peace of mind.