The Ethics of Confucius, by Miles Menander Dawson, , at sacred-texts.com
THE characteristics of the superior man having been presented, it is in logical order to examine the faculties and qualities which Confucius would have one cultivate to attain this ideal state. First in importance is the will.
The Will. "Their purposes being rectified, they cultivated themselves."
By these words in "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 5) it is meant that when there is no conflict of aims, of duties and desires, when one wills what he wishes, and with all his heart singly and clearly wishes what he wills, then and not till then does the will become clear and firm and strong.
The man is his will; back of his will is his purpose; and back of his purpose, his desire. If his knowledge enable him to make right choices, he should be sincere, his desires should be disciplined, his purpose lofty, and, resting thereupon as on a rock, his will fixed and immovable. That is character.
Confucius puts it: "If the will be set on virtue,
there will be no practice of wickedness." (Analects, bk. iv., c. iv.) True; for when the will rests upon set purpose, based upon purified desire, born of knowledge and discriminating investigation of phenomena, nothing can undermine it!
This rectification of the antecedent conditions is what the sage refers to when he says: "To subdue one's self and return to propriety is perfect virtue" (Analects, bk. xii., c. 1), and again: "The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the unpretentious are near to virtue." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxvii.)
That the will is proved by its resistance rather than its impelling force, Mencius says in this: "Men must be resolute about what they will not do and then they are able to act with vigor." (Bk. iv., pt. ii., c. viii.)
The same is meant, i.e., that if one's trust is thus grounded, nothing external can shake his determination, when Confucius says: "The commander of the forces of a large state may be carried off, but the will of even a common man cannot be taken from him." (Analects, bk. ix., c. xxv.) So speaks Ibsen who puts into the mouth of Brand:
Confucius refuses to accept the excuse of inability unless one actually expires in a supreme effort to achieve. Therefore, when his disciple, Yen Kew, said: "It is not that I do not delight in your
doctrines, but my strength is insufficient," he admonished him: "They whose strength is insufficient give over in the middle of the way, but now you do but set limits unto yourself." (Analects, bk. vi., c. x.)
The scorn of craven compromise is well voiced in this: "Tsze-Chang said, 'When a man holds fast virtue, but without seeking to enlarge it, and credits right principles, but without firm sincerity, what account can be made of his existence or non-existence?'" (Analects, bk. xix., c. ii.)
That the path of duty leads to the very brink of the graveand beyond itConfucius says in no uncertain language: "The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. viii.) "The man who in the view of gain thinks of righteousness, who in the view of danger is prepared to give up his life, and who does not forget an old agreement, however far back it extendssuch a man may be reckoned a complete man." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xiii., v. 2.)
His disciple, Tsze-Chang, said of this: "The scholar, beholding threatened danger, is prepared to sacrifice his life. When the opportunity for gain is presented to him, he thinks of righteousness." (Analects, bk. xix., c. i.)
This picture, which to uninstructed mortals may seem dark and forbidding,it should not
seem so, since to die is before every man and few can hope to have so noble an end,Confucius did not always hold before the eyes of his disciples, however, but on the contrary justly declared, in the face of their craven dread: "Virtue is more to man than either fire or water. I have seen men die by treading upon fire or water, but I have never seen a man die by treading the path of virtue." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxiv.)
It costs really nothing to will that which is good and beneficial; the cost is all on the other side. That one sacrifices, is pure delusion; the pleasure as well as the solid benefit is to be found where the enlightened will would bear us. Such conduct is heroic to contemplate; but it is simple truth and not merely personal praise which Confucius spake of another: "With a single bamboo dish of rice, a single gourd dish of drink, and living in a mean, narrow lane, while others could not have endured the distress, he did not allow his joy to be affected by it." (Analects, bk. vi., c. ix.)
It might, indeed it ought and would, be true of any other, if unspoiled; and, as he has well said: "For a morning's anger, to wreck one's life and involve the lives of his parents, is not this a case of delusion?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xxi., v. 3.)
And, while not so strikingly and obviously true, this statement holds for every aberration from the path of duty, into which one may believe himself led by reason of the greater pleasure and satisfaction that it seems to offer, be it what it may.
[paragraph continues] The beauty, the compensations and relaxations of the upward course are thus set forth by the sage: "Let the will be set on the path of duty! Let every attainment of what is good be firmly grasped! Let perfect virtue be emulated! Let relaxation and enjoyment be found in the polite arts!" (Analects, bk. vii., c. vi.)
To the instructed mind there is nothing uninviting in this prospect; and low and mind-destroying pleasures and comforts which are in fact, though not apparently, lower and more destructive are well abandoned for these higher, simpler, keener, and more abiding satisfactions. Confucius puts it also more explicitly thus: "To find enjoyment in the discriminating study of ceremonies and music; to find enjoyment in speaking of the goodness of others; to find enjoyment in having many worthy friends:these are advantageous. To find enjoyment in extravagant pleasures; to find enjoyment in idleness and sauntering; to find enjoyment in the pleasures of feasting: these are injurious." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. v.)
Even reverses and hardships have their lesson and reward if one but meet them with resolution; for as Mencius says: "When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first disciplines his mind with suffering and his bones and sinews with toil. It exposes him to want and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his
mind, hardens him, and supplies his shortcomings." (Bk. vi., pt. ii., c. xv., v. 2.)
This development of the will, which is the development of the man, is therefore not a thing to terrify or repel. Instead, it is mastery, power, sway, achievementthat for which the mind of man longs unceasingly. And it comes of itself, if the basis for it has been safely and carefully laid in purified desires and righteous aims, without effort, without strain, without pain or penalty.
"Is virtue a thing remote?" asked the sage; and answered: "I wish to be virtuous, and lo, virtue is at hand!" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxix.)
What, then, is this will? What, this virtue? The disciples of Confucius handed the secret of it down from one to another, in these words: "The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xv., v. 2.)
That the joy of well-doing is more than comparable with the pleasure of abandonment to sensual playing with elemental appetites, is said in these words of Wu, reported in the "Shu King": "I have heard that the good man, doing good, finds the day insufficient; and that the evil man, doing evil, also finds the day insufficient." (Pt. v., bk. i., sect. 2)
Fortitude. When the will accords completely with the purpose and the desire, courage follows necessarily; for, if one desires a given result, designs to compass it, and wills to achieve it, it
can only mean that he is not fearful about it but instead is cool and determined. As it costs nothing to will, when the purpose are rectified; so, when the will is clear and firm, it costs nothing to be brave. Therefore in "The Great Learning" it is said that by this course, "unperturbed resolve is attained." Confucius elsewhere puts it: "To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xxiv., v. 2.)
For if one see what is right, he should think sincerely about it, without self-delusion; and, thinking thus, his desires and his purposes should be rectified and therefrom the will to do right will flow. And if he see the truth and do not do these things, it is plainly want of couragethe courage to cast aside comfortable delusions, to think sincerely and be undeceived. When undeceived and with desire and resolve purified, the will and courage follow inevitably.
Confucius again refers to this, saying: "When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them." (Analects, bk. i., c. viii., v. 4.) This is also the gist of the following injunction from the "Li Ki" (bk. xv., v. 22): "Do not try to defend or conceal what was wrong in the past."
So also speaks Yueh in the "Shu King": "Do not be ashamed of mistakes and so proceed to make them crimes!" (Pt. iv., bk. viii., sect. v. I.)
The fear here referred to is doubtless both the fear of discomfort and the fear of the prying eyes
and the caustic tongues of others. To this craven dread, reference is made when Tsze-Hea says: "The inferior man is sure to gloss his faults." (Analects, bk. xix., c. viii.) The remedy for it, Confucius demonstrates in these brave words: "I am fortunate! If I have any faults, people are sure to know them." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxx., v. 3.)
Thus Mencius puts it: "When any one told Tsze-loo that he had a fault, he rejoiced." (Bk. ii., pt. i., c. viii., v. 1.)
Again speaking in the "Yi King" in praise of the son of the Yen family, Confucius says: "If anything that he did was not good, he was sure to become conscious of it; and, when he knew it, he did not do the thing again." (Appendix iii., v. 42.)
So, also, King Thang is represented in the "Shu King" as saying: "The good in you I will not dare to keep concealed; and for the evil in me, I will not dare to forgive myself." (Pt. iv., bk. iii., v. 3.)
And in the "Shu King," also, the great Shun is reported to have said: "When I am doing wrong, it is yours to correct me. Do not concur to my face and when you have retired, speak otherwise!" (Pt. ii., bk. iv., I.)
Fearlessness Confucius ever named as an attribute of the superior man, saying (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxx., v. 1): "The way of the superior man is threefold, but I am not equal to it. Virtuous,
he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear"; and he presents this opposite picture (Analects, bk. iv., c. ii.): "They who are without virtue cannot abide long either in a condition of poverty and hardship or in a condition of enjoyment."
This is even more strikingly presented in the following: "Having not and yet affecting to have, empty and yet affecting to be full, straitened and yet affecting to be at ease! It is difficult with such characteristics to have constancy." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxv., v. 3.)
And in this contrast: "The superior man is satisfied and composed, the ordinary man is always full of distress." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxxvi.)
The cowardice of such concern about the future as sets one to speculating and worrying is condemned in the "Li Ki" (bk. xv., 22) as follows: "Do not try . . . to fathom what has not yet arrived."
The sage was not unaware that boldness may be the result of ignorance as well as of knowledge, that it may be madness and folly instead of clear sanity and wisdom. It was concerning such that Confucius spoke when he said of the superior man: "He hates those who have valour only and are unobservant of propriety. He hates those who are forward and determined and at the same time of contracted understanding." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. xxiv., v. 2.)
That the bravery of the superior man and the bravado of the inferior should be distinguished, is the gist of the following saying: "Men of principle are sure to be bold, but those who are bold may not always be men of principle." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. v.)
The absolute need of fearlessness, Mencius enjoins in this which he puts into the mouth of Mang She-Shay: "I look upon not conquering and conquering in the same way. To measure the enemy and then advance, to calculate the chances of victory and then engagethis is to stand in dread of the opposing force. How can I make certain of conquering? But I can rise superior to all fear." (Bk. ii., pt. i., c. ii., v. 5.)
The shame of moral cowardice is well set forth by Confucius in the " Yi King, "thus: "If one be distressed by what need not distress him, his name is sure to be disgraced." (Appendix iii., sect. ii., c. v.)
What, then, may the superior man fear? The answer, disclosing that upon which the courage of the superior man rests securely, is in this query: "They sought to act virtuously and they did so; and what was there for them to repine about?" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xiv., v. 2.)
The freedom from fear which is here referred to costs no effort; if the precedent conditions have been fulfilled, it is their natural and necessary consequence and appears in the noble attributes of the superior man, to which Confucius often
adverted, as thus: "The superior man has neither anxiety nor fear." (Analects, bk. xii., c. iv., v. t.) "When internal examination discovers nothing wrong, what is there to be anxious about, what is there to fear?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. iv., v. 3.)
Poise. "To this"i.e., to unperturbed calm"succeeds tranquil poise. In this poise is found deliberation."
This passage from "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 2) aims to enforce that it is not enough that one should be resolute and composed in the presence of danger; he must ever be calm and resolute. Thus the sage has said: "What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks, is in others." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxviii.) And his disciple, Tsang, says: "The superior man in his thoughts does not go out of his place." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxviii.)
In the "Yi King" (appendix ii., c. iii.), it is put thus: "The superior man does not in his thoughts go beyond the position in which he is."
And thus, also: "The influence of the world would make no change in him; he would do nothing merely to secure fame. He can live withdrawn from the world without regret; he can experience disapproval without a troubled mind. . . . He is not to be torn from his root." (Appendix iv., c. ii., v. 41.)
In the "Li Ki" this is much expatiated upon, in part only as follows: "The scholar keeps himself free from all stain; . . . he does not go among
those who are low, to make himself seem high, nor set himself among those who are foolish, to make himself seem wise; . . . he does not approve those who think as he, nor condemn those who think differently; thus he takes his stand alone and pursues his course, unattended." (Bk. xxxviii., v. 15.)
The reward for this attainment of perfect poise is described in the "Yi King" (appendix iii., sect. i., c. i., v. 8), in these words: "With the attainment of such ease and such freedom from laborious effort, the mastery is had of all principles under the sky."
And the mode and manner of it are portrayed in the same book (appendix iii., sect. ii., c. v., v. 44) by this saying attributed to Confucius: "The superior man composes himself before trying to move others; makes his mind at rest and easy, before he opens his mouth; determines upon his method of intercourse with others, before he seeks anything of them."
The central conception is that the man should be so balanced that, instead of giving unconscious reactions or semi-conscious responses to stimuli from without, every response, however promptly delivered in speech or act, should be purposivethe consequence of intelligent understanding and resolve.
Mencius said of himself (bk. ii., pt. i., c. ii., v. 1): "At forty I attained to an unperturbed mind"; and Confucius of himself (Analects, bk. vi., c.
xxvii.): "There may be those who do this or that, without knowing why. I do not do so."
The sage also eulogizes the balanced, self-centred man in no uncertain terms, as follows: "He with whom neither calumny which slowly soaks into the mind, nor insults that startle like a wound to the flesh, are successful, may indeed be called intelligent; yea, he with whom neither soaking calumny nor startling insults are successful may be called far-seeing." (Analects, bk. xii., c. vi.)
Here are yet other words of penetrating wisdom concerning the advantages of this perfect poise and calm: "He who does not anticipate attempts to deceive him nor think beforehand of his not being believed, and yet apprehends these things readily when they occur, is he not a man of superior worth?" (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxxviii.)
Mencius also characterizes such a man as follows: "When he obtains the desired position to practise virtue for the good of the people; when disappointed in that ambition to practise virtue for himself; to be above the power of riches and honours to corrupt, of poverty and a mean condition to swerve and of might and sway to bendthese characterize the great man." (Bk. iii., pt. ii., c. ii., v. 3.)
Confucius deemed it indispensable for a ruler to thus possess his soul. Alone it would make a ruler good, if not indeed great. Therefore, he
says: "May not Shun be instanced as having governed efficiently without exertion? What did he do? He did nothing but gravely and reverently occupy his imperial seat." (Analects, bk. xv., c. iv.)
And again in these enthusiastic words: "How majestic was the manner in which Shun and Yu held possession of the empire, as if it were nothing to them!" (Analects, bk. viii., c. xviii.)
How this singleness of purpose and this perfect poise of soul, unsuspected during an uneventful life, when great occasion arises, stand forth and reveal the man, is the burden of this saying: "The superior man cannot be known in little matters but he may be entrusted with great concerns." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxiii.)
Self-Control. " Want of forbearance in small matters confounds great plans." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxvi.)
The need for constancy and self-control is often urged by the sage, as thus: "Inconstant in his virtue, he will be visited with disgrace." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxii., v. 2.) In the "Shu King," I Yin is represented as expressing this sentiment: "Be careful to strive after the virtue of self-restraint and to cherish far-reaching plans." (Pt. iv., bk. v., sect. 1, 2.)
What is emphasized in these passages, is that he who has formed worthy conceptions of the significance of life and correct designs for accomplishing its ends must not permit himself, at
unguarded moments, to be surprised into revelations of deeper-seated longings, by the unexpected presentation of opportunities for the safe enjoyment of sensual delights or by the excitement of rage or terror or other unworthy emotion.
It is well said in the "Shi King" (Minor Odes of the Kingdom, decade v., ode 2): "Men who are grave and wise, though they drink, are masters of themselves. Men who are benighted and ignorant become slaves of drink and more so, daily. Be careful, each of you, of your conduct! What Heaven confers, when once lost, will not be regained."
The necessity for reflection and consideration, though it be but momentary, before responding to any impulse from without, either in speech or in action, instead of the automatic, animal response of a curse or a blow, a smile or a caress, or whatever it may be when one is played upon, is always present in the mind of the sage. It is significantly expressed thus: "Ke Wan Tze thought thrice and then acted. When the Master was informed of it, he said: 'Twice may do.'" (Analects, bk. v., c. xix.)
That even greater prudence in speech is desirable, is indicated by this reply to the inquiry of Tsze-kung: "What constitutes the superior man? " "He acts before he speaks and afterwards speaks in accordance with his act." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xiii.)
Reasons for reticence are given in several passages,
from which these are culled: "The Master said, 'The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.'" (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxix.) "This man seldom speaks; when he does, he is sure to hit the point." (Analects, bk. xi., c. xiii., v. 3.) "When a man feels the difficulty of doing, can he be otherwise than cautious and slow in speaking?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. iii., v. 3.) "The reason why the ancients did not readily give utterance to their words was because they feared lest their deeds should not come up to them." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxii.)
The prudence of this course is illustrated in the "Shi King" (Major Odes, decade iii., ode 2) by this apt comparison: "A flaw in a mace of white jade may be ground away, but a word spoken amiss cannot be mended."
This is expatiated upon by the sage as follows: "Hear much and put aside the points of which you are in doubt, while you speak cautiously at the same time of others;then you will afford few occasions for blame. See much and put aside the things which seem perilous, while you are cautious at the same time in carrying the others into practice;then you will have few occasions for repentance." (Analects, bk. ii., c. xvii., v. 2.)
And when Fan Che asked about perfect virtue, Confucius replied in practical terms: "It is, in retirement, to be sedately grave; in the management of business, to be reverently attentive; in
intercourse with others, to be strictly sincere." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xix.)
The portrait of such a man is well drawn in these outlines: "Looked at from a distance, he appears stern; when approached, he is mild; when he is heard to speak, his language is firm and decided." (Analects, bk. xix., c. ix.)
By this is not meant mere obstinacy, but firmness, based upon resolve, resting in turn on rectified purpose, that in turn upon clarified and illuminated desire, and all upon intelligent investigation and determination of facts. Therefore, he has also said: "The superior man is correctly firm, and not firm merely." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxvi.)
Dignity also accompanies this aplomb or mental and moral balance, as a consequence and not as a thing which must be thought about and striven forsimple dignity which comes as naturally as the bloom upon the peach or upon the cheek of youth or maidennever to be confounded with arrogance. Of this, we learn: "The superior man has dignified ease without pride. The ordinary man has pride without dignified ease." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxvi.)
Moderation. "Sincerely hold fast the due mean." (Analects, bk. xx., c. i., v. 1.)
"The Master said: 'Alas, how the path of the mean is not walked in!'" (Doctrine of the Mean, c. v.)
An entire book, bearing the title: "The Doctrine
of the Mean," consisting chiefly of sayings of Confucius upon this subject, survives. The following account of its origin is found in the introduction: "This work contains the law of the mind which was handed down from one to another in the Confucian School till Tsze-tsze (the grandson of Confucius), fearing lest in the course of time errors should arise about it, committed it to writing and delivered it to Mencius."
What is meant by "the mean" is the virtue which the ancient Greeks especially praised under the name of temperance. It is defined in the "Li Ki" as follows: "Pride should not be allowed to grow. The desires should not be indulged. The will should not be gratified to the full. Pleasure should not be carried to excess." (Bk. i., sect. i., pt. i., c. ii.)
Confucius attached great importance to this idea, saying: "Perfect is the virtue which is according to the mean. They have long been rare among the people who could practise it." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. iii.)
He also said: "I know how it is that the path of the mean is not walked in; the knowing go beyond it and the stupid do not come up to it. I know how it is that the path of the mean is not understood; the men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the worthless do not come up to it." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. iv., v. 1.)
The difficulty, indeed the well-nigh impossibility, of attaining this perfect self-control was appreciated
by Confucius, who often spoke of it, saying: "All men say, 'We are wise'; but happening to choose the path of the mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. vi.)
And again: "The empire, its states, and its families may be perfectly ruled, dignities and emoluments may be declined, naked weapons may be trampled under the feet, but the course of the mean cannot be attained to." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. ix.)
And in another place he says: "The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but when he has gone half-way he abandons it." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xi., v. 2.)
Yet he does not overemphasize this nor fail to recognize that this path is as frequently found by the lowly and humble as by those who are conscious of greatness. He says, instead: "The path is not far from man. When men try to pursue a course which is far from the common indications of consciousness, this course cannot be considered the path." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiii., v. 1.)
Mencius in two places reverently echoes this sentiment, as follows: "The path of duty lies in what is near and men seek for it in what is remote; to follow it is easy and men seek it among arduous undertakings." (Bk. iv., pt. i., c. xi.) "The way of truth is like a great road. It is not hard to find it. The trouble is only that men will not look for it. Go home and seek it and you will
find many ready to point it out." (Bk. vi., pt. ii., c. ii., v. 7.)
This strange but necessary combination of simplicity and complexity, of things easy and things difficult to understand, is well set forth in the following cryptic language: "The way of the superior man may be found in its simple elements in the intercourse of common men and women, in its utmost reaches it shines brightly through Heaven and earth." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xii., v. 4.)
Confucius finds the starting point for following the path of the mean in this, that one should be natural, should be himself. The whole picture of what is fundamentally necessary and of what result may be hoped for is in the following from the "Doctrine of the Mean" (c. xiv.):
"The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is, he does not desire to go beyond this. In a position of wealth and honour he does what is proper to a position of wealth and honour; in a poor and low position, he does what is proper to a poor and low position; situated among barbarous tribes, he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes; in a position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a position of sorrow and difficulty.
"The superior man can find himself in no position in which he is not himself. In a high situation he does not treat with contempt his inferiors, in a low situation he does not court the favour of
his superiors. He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfaction.
"He does not murmur against Heaven nor grumble against men. Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the appointments of Heaven, while the inferior man walks in dangerous paths, looking for lucky occurrences."
This path, according to Confucius, lies before every man. It is put thus in the "Doctrine of the Mean" in a passage deemed by Chinese scholars to refer to Confucius only: "It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden. Hence it is said, 'Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path in all its courses be realized.' Therefore the superior man honours his virtuous nature and maintains constant inquiry and study, seeking to carry it out to its breadth and greatness, so as to omit none of the most exquisite and minute points which it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the mean." (C. xxvii., v. 4, 5, 6.)
The qualities of the man who follows the path of the mean are matters about which the author of the "Doctrine of the Mean" becomes enthusiastic, indulging in declarations such as these: "It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist under Heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence and all-embracing knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous,
generous, benign and mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm grasp; self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the mean and correct, fitted to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching, fitted to exercise discrimination; all-embracing is he, and vast, deep, and active as a fountain, sending forth, in their due seasons, his virtues." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxi., v. 1, 2.)
Confucius rarely held out any actual, earthly reward, external to the man, for any line of conduct; and indeed above all other attitudes of mind, he praised that which considered solely the thing to be done and not the reward for doing it. Yet as to certain consequences which flow from following the path of the mean, the "Doctrine of the Mean" was not silent, but said of him who follows it consistently: "Wherever ships and carriages reach, wherever the strength of man penetrates, wherever the heavens overshadow and the earth sustains, wherever the sun and moon shine, wherever frost and dew fall, all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honour and love him." (C. xxxi., v. 3.)
Righteousness. "Such deliberation results in achievement of the ends of being."
These words from "The Great Learning" (Text, v. 2) raise the question: What is life's object? Confucius elsewhere answers it: "Man is born for uprightness. If a man lose his uprightness
and yet live, his escape is the result of mere good fortune." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xvii.)
Tsang Tze, according to Mencius, attributes this also to Confucius: "If on self-examination, I find I am not upright, shall I not be in fear even of a poor man in his loose garments of hair-cloth? If on self-examination I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands." (Mencius, bk. ii., pt. i., c. ii., v. 7.)
It is to this, also, that Confucius refers when he says: "Let every man consider virtue as what devolves upon himself; he may not yield the performance of it even to his teacher." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxv.)
That it comes naturally and easily if the purpose has been rectified and the will is clear and strong, he says in these words: "If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness." (Analects, bk. iv., c. iv.)
The life which is devoid of purity and rectitude, he regards as thrown away. Righteousness should reign in men's hearts and in their lives. Its name and how desirable a thing it is should be upon their lips every day; for of this he speaks as follows: "When a number of people are together for a whole day without their conversation turning on righteousness, and when they are fond of carrying out a narrow shrewdness, theirs is indeed a hard case." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xvi.)
Cunning shrewdness he regarded as utterly inconsistent with rectitude, saying: "Who says
of Wei-chang Kao that he is upright? One begged some vinegar of him and he begged it of a neighbour and gave it to him." (Analects, bk. v., c. xxiii.)
That righteousness is of the man and not only of his deed, Mencius thus affirms: "Kao Tze has never understood righteousness. He makes it a thing external." (Bk. ii., pt. i., c. ii., v. 15.)
The attainment of righteousness of thought and conduct, then, is the aim of all who wish, in conformity with the art of living, to achieve a well-spent life. Perfect and complete rectitude is, of course, not a sine qua non in order that one should be a superior man; for the word "superior" is relative. Confucius says: "Superior men, and yet not always virtuous, there have been, alas! But there has never been an inferior man who was at the same time virtuous." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. vii.)
Among the descriptions of the superior man, we find these which bear upon the same subject; for the most part they have already been quoted, but it is necessary to reconsider them here: "The superior man thinks of virtue, the ordinary man thinks of comfort. The superior man thinks of sanctions of law, the ordinary man of favours." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xi.) "The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness, the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xvi.) "The superior man holds righteousness to be of the highest
importance." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. xxiii.) "The superior man in all things considers righteousness essential." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xvii.)
Mencius thus identifies righteousness as the normal attribute of man: "Benevolence is the tranquil habitation of man and righteousness his straight path. Alas for them who leave the tranquil habitation tenantless and dwell not therein and who turn away from the straight path and pursue it not!" (Bk. iv., pt. i., c. x., v. 2, 3.)
Nine things, as regards which one must keep watch over himself, are enumerated by Confucius as follows: "The superior man has nine things which are subjects with him of thoughtful consideration. In regard to the use of his eyes, he is anxious to see clearly. In regard to the use of his ears, he is anxious to hear distinctly. In regard to his countenance, he is anxious that it should be benign. In regard to his demeanour, he is anxious that it should be respectful. In regard to his speech, he is anxious that it should be sincere. In regard to his doing of business, he is anxious that it should be reverently careful. In regard to what he doubts about, he is anxious to question others. When he is angry, he thinks of the difficulties his anger may involve him in. When he sees gain to be got, he thinks of righteousness." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. x.)
Some of the qualities which go to make up rectitude of demeanour and conduct are recorded in this passage, with appropriate statements as
to their advantages: "If you are grave, you will not be treated with disrespect. If you are generous, you will win all. If you are sincere, people will repose trust in you. If you are earnest, you will accomplish much. If you are kind, this will enable you to employ the services of others." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. vi.)
And in the "Li Ki" (bk. vii., sect. ii., 19), the following are given as essentials of right-living: "What are the things which men consider right? Kindness in a father, filial piety in a son; gentleness in an elder brother, obedience in a younger; righteousness in a husband, submission in a wife; kindness in elders, deference in juniors; benevolence in a ruler, loyalty in a minister. These ten are things which men consider right. To speak the truth and work for harmony are what are called things advantageous to men. To quarrel, plunder, and murder are things disastrous to men."
The philosophy, the sequence, even the causation of it are contained in this, from the same book: "He who knows how to exemplify what a son should be, can afterwards exemplify what a father should be. He who knows how to exemplify what a minister should be, can afterwards exemplify what a ruler should be. He who knows how to serve others, can afterwards employ them." (Bk. vi., sect. i., 20.)
Perhaps there are traces of an ancient freemasonryor did they merely presage the newer symbolism?in this, from the "Yi King" (appendix
iv., sect. ii., c. ii., 6): "The plumb signifies correctness; the square, righteousness." There are several such passages in the ancient books of the Chinese.
Self-righteousness is far from what the sage has in mind. Indeed, such a conception could not be harboured by him who said: "I am fortunate. If I have any faults, people are sure to know them" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxx., v. 3); and again: "In letters I am perhaps equal to other men, but the character of the superior man, carrying out in his conduct what he professes, is what I have not yet attained to." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxxii.) As the sage puts it: "To have faults and not to reform them, this indeed should be pronounced having faults." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxix.)
He also said concerning himself: "If some years were added to my life, I would give fifty to the study of the Yi, and then I might come to be without great faults" (Analects, bk. vii., c. xvi.); and he especially praised the selection by Keu Pih-yuh of a messenger who, when asked, "What is your master engaged in?" replied: "My master is anxious to make his faults few, but has not yet succeeded." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxvi.)
And the necessity for frequent introspection and unsparing criticism of self is thus enjoined: "Therefore, the superior man examines his heart that there may be nothing wrong there, and that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxiii., v. 2.)
That righteousness mayand, indeed, must, in order to be practicable by mortalscoexist with the presence of many shortcomings and may even be reflected in them, Confucius indicates in this shrewd remark: "By observing a man's faults, it may be known that he is virtuous." (Analects, bk. iv., c. vii.)
Not that one is to hug this to his soul in self-justification and self-indulgence, for it is written: "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles, and be moving continually toward what is right! " (Analects, bk. xii., c. x., v. 1.) He would not lightly excuse or condone the abandonment of virtue; for is it not he "who in the view of gain thinks of righteousness," that is pronounced "a complete man"? (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xiii., v. 2.) "The determined scholar and the man of virtue," he also said, "will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete." (Analects, bk. xv., c. viii.) Mencius also puts forth this idea in another dress: "I prize life indeed but there is that which I prize more than life and therefore I will not seek to preserve it by improper means. I shrink from death indeed but there is that which I shrink from more than death, and therefore there are occasions when I will not avoid danger." (Bk. vi., pt. i., c. x., v. i.)
Confucius had no notion of palliating the offence of one who abandons right-doing; for he said of
this: "If a superior man abandon virtue, how can he fulfil the requirements of the name? The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger he cleaves to it." (Analects, bk. iv., v. 2, 3.)
And this constancy he again adverts to, sagely: "The virtuous rest in virtue; the wise desire virtue." (Analects, bk. iv., c. ii.) Yet he laments: "I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what is not virtuous. He who loved virtue, would esteem nothing above it. He who hated what is not virtuous, would practise virtue in such a way that he would not allow anything that is not virtuous to approach his person. Is any one able for one day to apply his strength to virtue? I have not seen the case in which his strength would be insufficient. Should there possibly be such a case, I have not seen it." (Analects, bk. iv., c. vi.)
Yet he despairs of constant righteousness; for he says elsewhere: "To subdue one's self and return to propriety is perfect virtue. If a man for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him." (Analects, bk. xii., c. i., v. 1.) And likewise: "If a man in the morning hear the right way, he may die in the evening without regret." (Analects, bk. iv., c. viii.)
Earnestness. "Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart!" (Shu King, pt. v., bk. ix., 2.)
These words are ascribed to the illustrious Wu or to Khang, his son. The injunction which Ibsen puts into the mouth of Brand:
seems but a modern echo, or reaffirmation, of this sentiment of thousands of years ago.
In the "Shu King," also, I Yin is made to say: "What attainment can be made without anxious thought? What achievement without earnest effort?" (Pt. iv., bk. vi., sect. iii., 2.)
Mencius puts it strongly thus: "Now chess-playing is but a small art; but without giving his whole mind to it and bending his will to it, a man cannot excel in it." (Bk. vi., pt. i., c. ix., v. 3.)
The absolute sincerity of thought which has been found prerequisite to the acquisition of sound learning, the formation of right desires, and the planning of the art of life, must ripen into earnestness in conduct and candour of speech. Else were it fruitless and unavailing. As much is embraced in this primary injunction of Confucius: "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles!" (Analects, bk. i., c. viii., v. 2.)
Among the nine things which are with the superior man subjects "of thoughtful consideration," he includes these: "In regard to his speech, he is anxious that it be sincere. In regard to his doing
of business, he is anxious that it should be reverently careful." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. x.)
These resulting virtues of speech and action were two of the "four things which the Master taught: Letters, ethics, devotion of spirit, and truthfulness." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxiv.) And urgently did he enjoin each of his disciples "to give one's self earnestly to the duties due to men." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xx.)
That this should come naturally and easily, without strain or striving, Mencius says in this: "The great man does not think beforehand of his words that they may be sincere nor of his actions that they may be resolute; he simply speaks and does what is right." (Bk. iv., pt. ii., c. xi.)
The opposite Mencius finds in this: "The disease of men is this:that they neglect their own fields and go to weed the fields of others and that what they require from others is great, while what they lay upon themselves is light." (Bk. vii., pt. ii., c. xxxii., v. 3.)
The evil results of uninstructed earnestness in conduct, i.e., earnestness unaccompanied by clear knowledge of what is aimed at, of consequences and causes and of the means by which one's real ends may be furthered, are set forth in this: "There is the love of being sincere without the love of learning; the beclouding here leads to an injurious disregard of consequences." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. viii., v. 3.)
Notwithstanding these obvious limitations, none
of which goes to the root and all of which have to do only with what should accompany earnestness and candour, Confucius enjoins both, upon the young as upon the old, as absolutely essential to right-living. Thus of the youth, he says: "He should be earnest and truthful" (Analects, bk. i., c. vi.), and of the superior man: "He who aims at complete virtue . . . is earnest in what he is doing and careful in his speech." (Analects, bk. i., c. xiv.) "The superior man wishes to be slow in speech and earnest in conduct." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxiv.) " What the superior man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing inaccurate." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. iii., v. 7.)
Twice in the "Analects," although Confucius spoke seldom about "perfect virtue," he referred, when replying to inquiries on this important subject, especially to sincerity of speech and faithfulness of conduct, the first time briefly thus: "Fan Che asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, 'It is in retirement, to be sedately grave; in the management of business, to be reverently attentive; in intercourse with others, to be strictly sincere.'" (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xix.)
The second time, he did not content himself with mere categorical mention, but proceeded to expatiate upon the beneficent results of these virtues, in the following: "Tsze-chang asked Confucius about perfect virtue. Confucius said, 'To be able to practise five things everywhere
under heaven constitutes perfect virtue.' He begged to inquire what they were, and was told: 'Gravity, generosity, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. If you are grave, you will not be treated with disrespect. If you are generous, you will win all. If you are sincere, people will repose trust in you. If you are earnest, you will accomplish much. If you are kind, this will enable you to employ the services of others.'" (Analects, bk. xvii., c. vi.)
These results, he further taught, are independent of time and place and of the state of civilization of those among whom these virtues are practised, for he says: "Let his words be sincere and truthful, and his actions honourable and careful;such conduct may be practised among the rude tribes of the South or of the North. If his words be not sincere and truthful, and his actions not honourable and careful, will he, with such conduct, be appreciated, even in his own neighbourhood?" (Analects, bk. xv., c. v., v. 2.)
Humility. "I am not concerned that I have no place; I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known; I seek to be worthy to be known." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xiv.) "I will not be afflicted that men do not know me; I will be afflicted that I do not know men." (Analects, bk. i., c. xvi.) "I will not be concerned at men's not knowing me; I will be concerned at my own want of ability." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxxii.) "The superior man is
distressed by his want of ability; he is not distressed by men's not knowing him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xvii.)
These are but a few of the many expressions in the "Analects" of the spirit of humility which is essential to true self-development. It is not want of self-respect that is here inculcated; but, instead, that poise which demands not the acclaim of others. In the "Yi King" (appendix ii., sect. i., c. xxviii.) it is put thus: "The superior man . . . stands alone and has no fear, and keeps retired from the world without regret."
Yet it is also far from encouraging the progress-destroying self-sufficiency of one who disregards others opinions because placing too high an estimate upon his own. For in the "Shu King" (pt. iv., bk. vi., 4) the earnest injunction is found, accredited to I Yin: "Do not think yourself so large as to deem others small!"
And this, also, is found in the "Shu King" (pt. iv., bk. ii., 4): "He who says that others are not equal to himself, comes to ruin."
And in the same book (pt. iv., bk. viii., sect. ii., 1) the illustrious Yueh is reported to have said: "Indulging the consciousness of being good is the way to lose that goodness; being vain of one's ability is the way to lose it."
And in its pages also (pt. v., bk. xxvi.) King Mu is made to say of himself, in all humility: "I rise at midnight and think how I can avoid falling into errors."
The Duke of Khin, also in the "Shu King" (pt. v., bk. xxx.), thus describes how difficult, albeit salutary, it is to receive, welcome, and apply the reproof of others: "Reproving others is easy, but to receive reproof and allow it free course is difficult."
And in the "Li Ki" (bk. ii., sect. ii., pt. iii., 17) the ruinous consequences of false pride are depicted by means of a clever parable, as follows: "It is because I would not eat 'Poor man, come here!' food that I am come to this state."
In the same book (Li Ki, bk. xxvii., 9) it is related of Confucius: "The Master said, 'The superior man exalts others and abases himself; he gives the first place to others and takes the last himself.'"
Mencius applied this to himself in this famous colloquy: "The officer Choo said, 'Master, the King sent persons to spy out whether you were really different from other men.' Mencius said, 'How should I be different from other men? Yaou and Shun were the same as other men."' (Bk. iv., pt. ii., c. xxxii.)
This also does Confucius teach, that with admiration and appreciation a man should look upon superior men, rejoicing in their virtue, and emulating them; and that, on the contrary, when beholding persons with grave and glaring faults, he is not to rejoice that he is not like unto them, but instead, with deep humility, to search his own heart with microscopic care and remorseless
earnestness, lest these very faults or errors be hiding there. Thus he says: "When we see men of worth, we should think of equalling them; when we see men of contrary character, we should turn inward and examine ourselves." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xvii.)
The difficulty of doing this, however, he did not minimize, knowing full well how prone the human mind is to justify its own aberrations. Indeed he more than once complained with sadness: "I have not yet seen one who could perceive his faults and inwardly accuse himself." (Analects, bk. v., c. xxvi.)
He counselled the greatest possible avoidance of the thought of personal success as a prime consideration of conduct, and inculcated the truth that unless the mind is devotedly bent to the achievement of its own purpose, to the accomplishment of the thing which it designs, the man's work will not be that which he desired to do but will merely be done in order that men might acclaim him.
He often emphasized even to a superlative degree the obstacles in the way of the formation of character and of living a well-spent and therefore successful life. Indeed, that this should ever come up to one's longings, or even to one's expectations, was, he frequently granted, quite impossible, meaning thereby not that the structure might not be imposing or beautiful, but that it would fall short of that perfect beauty which
the mind is able to conjure up before it, and must so imagine to itself if the man is to be kept steadily on the path of progress.
It is true that in all this there is no departure from the notion that the man should be in fact self-sufficient. It is not the idea of the sage that he should abandon himself to despair but that his mind, beholding clearly and courageously the perfection that he cannot hope to equal, should do all that lies in its power to mould itself after that vision of beauty, which after all is but an imperfect attempt to reconstruct within itself the glories which it cannot fully apprehend. Thus he teaches that one should be at ease about himself, even though others should hold him of no account. This is not meant by Confucius to be mere self-abasement, affected in order to obtain an advantage in coping with others, but a genuine willingness that one's work be done year in and year out, without being visited with the acclaim of the multitude. He says: "Is he not a man of complete virtue who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?" (Analects, bk. i., c. i., v. 3.)
He thus pays his tribute of praise and appreciation to the great soul who compasses this: "Admirable, indeed, was the virtue of Hwuy! With a single bamboo dish of rice, a single gourd dish of drink, and living in his mean narrow lane, while others could not have endured the distress he did not allow his joy to be affected by it. Admirable,
indeed, was the virtue of Hwuy!" (Analects, bk. vi., c. ix.)
Aspiration. "The scholar does not deem gold and jade precious, but loyalty and good faith. He does not crave broad lands and possessions, but holds the rectification of himself his domain. He asks not great wealth but looks upon many- sided culture as true riches." (Li Ki, bk. xxxviii., 6.)
Thus in the "Li Ki" Confucius indicates that for and unto which man should aspire. It is contrasted thus with the opposite and vainglorious but destructive course: "It is the way of the superior man to prefer the concealment of his virtue while it daily becomes more illustrious, and it is the way of the inferior man to seek notoriety while he daily goes more and more to ruin." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxiii., v. 1.)
And in this passage perhaps even more discriminatingly and finely: "The thing wherein the superior man cannot be equalled is simply this, his work which other men cannot see." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxiii., v. 2.)
Of the path which leads to this and which Confucius trod, it is said in this from the "Doctrine of the Mean," already once quoted: "It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden. Hence it is said, 'Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path in all its courses be realized.' Therefore the superior man honours his virtuous nature and maintains constant inquiry and study, seeking
to carry it out to its breadth and greatness so as to omit none of the most exquisite and minute points which it embraces and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the mean." (C. xxvii., v. 4, 5, 6.)
This is the portrait, considered by Chinese scholars to be that of Confucius, which in a passage from the same book, already once quoted, presents the many-sided character to which men, striving for the right, are to aspire: "It is only he possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist under Heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence and all-embracing knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm, and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm grasp; self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the mean and correct, fitted to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching, fitted to exercise discrimination. All embracing is he, and vast, deep, and active as a fountain, sending forth in their due seasons his virtues." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxi., v. 1, 2.)
In the "Li Ki," in more prosaic but not less striking fashion, the aspirations which are justifiable, honourable, and beneficial for a man are detailed, thus: "There are three things that occasion sorrow to a superior man. If there be a subject of which he has not heard, and he do not hear of it; if he hear of it, and do not come to learn it;
if he learn it but have no chance to practise it. There are five things that occasion the superior man humiliation. If in office and unfamiliar with its duties; if familiar with them but not carrying them into practice; if once in office and then dismissed; if in charge of a large territory but not well populated; if anybody with the same duties do better than he." (Li Ki, bk. xviii., 20.)
In the "Yi King" (appendix iii., sect. ii., c. v., 37), Confucius sharply contrasts this with the sordid, self-destroying motives of the inferior man, thus: "The inferior man is not ashamed of what is not benevolent nor does he fear to do what is not righteous. Without the prospect of gain he does not stimulate himself to what is good, nor does he correct himself without being moved."
The attitude which should be taken toward these incentives, usually so powerful, the sage thus presents: "Riches and honours are what men desire. If it cannot be brought about in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If it cannot be brought about in the proper way, they should not be avoided." (Analects, bk. iv., c. v., v. 1.)
Yet Confucius deemed it self-evidently a desirable thing that one's merit should be recognized and a thing almost incredible that true merit should go unrecognized. But he urged that this should be regarded as but an incident and not as the object to be aimed at and striven for. Instead, the labour must be primarily to serve one's fellowman
and to develop one's self. Notoriety and genuine distinction he discussed in the following: "The Master said, 'What is it you call being distinguished?' Tsze-chang replied, 'It is to be heard of through the state, to be heard of through the family.' The Master said: 'That is notoriety, not distinction. The man of distinction is substantial and straightforward and loves uprightness. He examines people's words and looks into their countenances. He is anxious to defer to others. Such a man will be distinguished in the country; he will be distinguished in the family. As to the man of notoriety, he assumes the appearance of virtue but his actions belie it, and he rests in this character without any doubts about himself. Such a man will be heard of in the country; he will be heard of in the family.'" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xx.)
There is one sort of aspiration for fame which Confucius said that he himself did not possess: "To live in obscurity and to practise wonders, in order to be mentioned with honour in future agesthis is what I do not do." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xi., v. i.)
Yet it is by no means his opinion that only they who by their virtues deserve to be known or even to be loved, receive the acclaim of the multitude. This but raises the question whether the man is really worthy or has merely deceived and misled the people. Confucius says that it but puts one upon inquiry, thus: "When the multitude
hate a man, it is necessary to examine into the case. When the multitude like a man, it is necessary to examine into the case." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxvii.)
This he explains more fully at another time in the following colloquy: "Tsze-kung asked, saying, 'What do you say of a man who is loved by all the people of his village?' The Master replied, 'We may not for that accord our approval of him.' 'And what do you say of him who is hated by all the people of his village?' The Master said, 'We may not for that conclude that he is bad. It is better than either of these cases that the good in the village love him, and the bad hate him.'" (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxiv.)
Confucius could not enough condemn the doing of any act for the mere purpose of obtaining the approval of men or of winning the laurels of fame. The aim must be the accomplishment of the work or service, itself. This he has said in many passages, among them these: "If doing what is to be done be made the first business and success a secondary consideration, is not this the way to exalt virtue?" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xxi., v. 3.) "In ancient times men learned with a view to their own improvement. Nowadays, men learn with a view to the approbation of others." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxv.) "The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business and success only a subsequent consideration." (Analects, bk. vi., c. xx.)
The true spirit of the man with an exalted aim he thus depicts: "Though he may be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xi., v. 3.)
In the "Yi King" (appendix iv., sect. i., c. ii., 6) Confucius recurs to it thus: "He occupies a high position without pride and a low position without anxiety."
And in the "Li Ki" with greater circumstantiality the indifference and unconcern of the superior man toward mere worldly rewards or failure to obtain them, and his complete immunity from evil result of either of these things, are thus portrayed: "The scholar is not cast down or uprooted by poverty and a mean condition; he is not elated or enervated by riches and an exalted condition." (Bk. xxxviii., 19.)
Yet, not utterly is ambition for worldly honours discouraged; for in the "Doctrine of the Mean," in a passage already once quoted, and which Chinese scholars deem to refer to Confucius himself, the prospect of the man who pursues the path of the mean is thus apostrophized: "Wherever ships and carriages reach, wherever the strength of man penetrates, wherever the heavens overshadow and the earth sustains, wherever the sun and moon shine, wherever frosts and dews fall, all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honour and love him." (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xxxi., v. 3.)
And, although the words, "I desire nothing but rightly to die," are ascribed to Tsang-tse,
when dying (Li Ki, bk. ii., sect. i., pt. i., 18), Confucius himself has said: "The superior man dislikes the thought of his name not being mentioned after his death." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xix.)
Prudence. "If a man take no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xi.)
In the "Yi King" (appendix iii., sect. ii., c. v., 39), the wisdom of prudence and of foresight, thus vividly presented in the "Analects," is enforced by the Master in these maxims: "He who keeps danger in mind, is he who will rest safe in his seat; he who keeps ruin in mind, is he who will preserve his interests secure; he who sets the danger of disorder before him, is he who will maintain order."
And in the "Shu King" Yueh is represented as urging thoughtful care, by these words: "For all affairs let there be adequate preparation; with preparation there will be no calamitous issue." (Pt. iv., bk. viii., sect. ii., 1.)
Of the same nature is this injunction from the "Li Ki" (bk. xv., 22): "Do not commence or abandon anything hastily."
Though far from teaching that the aim of the superior man should be the acquisition of wealth, and though insistent upon the view that this depends so much more upon fortune than upon the desert, or even the scheming, of individuals, Confucius, as in the foregoing, pleads always for the use of foresight and prudence in the ordinary
affairs of life. Thus he places among the cardinal qualities of the superior man reverent attention to business. (Analects, bk. xvi., c. x.) Yet he rarely discoursed upon this subject nor, indeed, upon the part of Heaven in determining the good or ill fortune which attends man; and that this is not true only of the sayings which have come down to us, is shown by this statement of his disciples: "The subjects of which the Master seldom spoke were: profitableness, also the appointments of Heaven and perfect virtue." (Analects, bk. ix., c. i.)
That the sordid pursuit of wealth is to be avoided he indicated in these words already quoted: "Riches and honour are what men desire. If it cannot be brought about in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If it cannot be brought about in the proper way, they should not be avoided." (Analects, bk. iv., c. v., v. 1.)
This he also said again and again, as in this contrast: "The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the average man is conversant with gain " (Analects, bk. iv., c. xvi.); and in another place he names as one of the qualities of "the complete man" that, "in view of gain," he "thinks of righteousness." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xiii., v. 2.)
He teaches that "riches and honours depend upon Heaven" (Analects, bk. xii., c. v., v. 3); notwithstanding which, prudence and industry
will, in a well-governed country, insure a competence. Wherefore he says: "When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honour are things to be ashamed of." (Analects, bk. viii., c. xiii., v. 3.)
To nothing would his proverb, "To go beyond is as bad as to fall short" (Analects, bk. xi., c. xiv., v. 3), apply more aptly than to expenditure, of which he also sagely remarks (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxxv.): "Extravagance leads to insubordination and parsimony to meanness. It is better to be mean than to be insubordinate"though, obviously, best of all to be neither.
As regards the pursuit of wealth, Confucius spoke, for himself, thus: "If the search for riches were sure to be successful, though I should become a groom with whip in hand to get them, I would do so. As the search may not be successful, I will pursue that which I desire." (Analects, bk. vii., c. xi.)
Resignation to the appointments of Heaven in this regard, and the greater desirability that more worthy ambitions be dominant, are urged in this striking passage: "There is Hwuy! He has nearly attained to perfect virtue. He is often in want." (Analects, bk. xi., c. xviii.)
That riches is not that to which the soul of the superior man aspires, he affirms in these words, already quoted in another connection: "The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth:
he is not anxious lest poverty should come upon him." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)
This version of "Riches takes unto itself wings" is given by the commentator in "The Great Learning": "Wealth, got by improper means, will take its departure in the same way." (C. x., v. 10.)
Among the "three things which the superior man guards against," he names avarice, saying: "In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust. When he is strong, and the physical powers are full of vigour, he guards against quarrelsomeness. When he is old, and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. vii.)
Though duties, corresponding to their ill fortune or good fortune, rest upon the poor and upon the rich, Confucius deems it much harder for the impoverished man to possess his soul and act according to propriety; of this he says: "To be poor without murmuring is difficult. To be rich without pride is easy." (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xi.)
The imprudence, not to speak of the immorality, of acting in a purely selfish manner, is shown in this: "He who acts with a constant view to his own advantage will be much murmured against." (Analects, bk. iv., c. xii.)
This, however, is not limited to financial dealings, but applies as well to all other exactions; as to which the sage shrewdly observes: "He who requires much from himself and little from others,
will keep himself from being the object of resentment." (Analects, bk. xv., c. xiv.)
It is also the part of prudence as early as possible to guard against speech and conduct which cause dislike; for, as the sage somewhat sweepingly asserts: "When a man at forty is the object of dislike, he will always continue what he is." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. xxvi.)
The same idea, but a different application of it, is presented in this wise saying from the "Shu King" (pt. v., bk. xxi., 2) attributed to King Khang: "Seek not every quality in one individual!"
And this vivid picture of the foredoomed failure of the ambitious but imprudent man Confucius gives in the "Yi King" (appendix iii., sect. ii., c. v., v. 40): "Virtue small and office high; wisdom small and plans great; strength small and burden heavywhere such conditions exist, it is seldom they do not end in evil."
The necessity for unflinching self-examination before engaging in any important undertaking or assuming any heavy obligation, not merely as a matter of personal honesty, but also as a matter of prudence, is thus enjoined in the "Li Ki" in a passage already quoted: "For one who wished to serve his ruler, the rule was first to measure his abilities and duties and then enter on the responsibilities; he did not first enter and then measure. The same rule applied when one begged or borrowed from others or sought to enter their service." (Bk. xv., 19.)
And in the "Yi King" (appendix ii., c. xxxiii., v. 4) this caution and this self-restraint are thus appreciated: "A superior man retires, notwithstanding his likings; an average man cannot attain to it."
This sketch of the superior man is elaborated further in the following passage in the "Analects": "He who aims to be a man of complete virtue, in his food does not seek to gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling-place does he seek the appliances of ease; he is earnest in what he is doing, and careful in his speech; he frequents the company of men of principle that he may be rectified." (Analects, bk. i., c. xiv.)
Prudence is, of course, merely the application of the same calm clear-sightedness and study of cause and effect, which the sage enjoins as the very foundation of the investigation of phenomena, upon which in turn the entire superstructure of the art of life rests. To what advantage does one refuse to recognize the stubborn facts, whether as regards himself or as regards others? Or as the sage phrases it: "Who can go out but by the door? How is it that men will not walk according to these ways?" (Analects, bk. vi., c. xv.)
The need of patience and thoroughness he also repeatedly inculcates, as in this: "Do not be desirous of having things done quickly; do not look at small advantages! Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great
things being accomplished." (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xvii.)
And the slow but solid achievement which attends this course is thus portrayed: "The way of the superior man may be compared with what takes place in travelling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space that is near and when in ascending a height we must first begin from the lower ground." (Doctrine of the Mean, C. xv., v. 1.)