Teach Children that Cultivating Virtue Is Better Than Accumulating Wealth
(Clearwisdom.net) From Jiafan, written by Sima Guang (1019-1086) during the Song Dynasty (960-1279)
People all wish to create good lives for their offspring, but hardly anyone succeeds. Why? Because they believe that only accumulating great wealth will benefit their children. Even if they have bountiful crops, own all the shops on the street, have silos filled with grain, or have trunks stuffed with treasure, they still think it is not enough and continue to pursue things relentlessly. They think that the wealth they accumulate will endure forever and that they can rest in peace.
These parents do not know that it is more important to teach their children how to be a person and how to manage a family with principles and manners. Their uneducated children quickly squander their parents' hard-earned fortune. They even call their parents stupid, say they don't know how to enjoy life, call them cheap, and abuse their own children.
Such wealthy but ill-bred children start with deception and theft to satisfy their greed. If money is short, they borrow with a promise to return it when their parents die. So carefully examine their mindset: they are eager to see their parents die. The worse case scenario is that they will not seek a doctor's care when their parents are sick and some will even poison their parents to obtain the family fortunes. Therefore, those who accumulate fortune for their children not only encourage their children's selfishness and bad behavior but also bring death to themselves.
There was once a gentleman born to a famous courtier family. He was very miserly despite the fact that he had obtained great riches. He would hold tightly to every grain of rice and every square inch of cloth. He locked up his treasures and money, holding the key in his hand during the day and sleeping with it at night. Later, when he was very sick, his children took his key when he was unconscious and stole all his treasures and money.
When he came to, he discovered that his key and his money were gone, and he was so angry that he died instantly. His children did not grieve over his death but started a serious fight over his hidden fortune. Even his un-married daughter, her head covered, went to the Court to fight for her dowry. Folks gossiped about this shameful behavior, remarking that, from their youth, his children had only been taught to chase personal gain with no emphasis on integrity.
Money and possessions are necessities of life, but one should not be greedy. Once someone has too much wealth it becomes a burden. If children are raised to be nice and capable, they can earn enough for at least ordinary food and clothes and will not starve or freeze by the roadside. If children are not raised to be capable, even if their house is filled with wealth, it's of no use. Parents who accumulate great wealth and give it to their children are very unwise.
All the wise individuals of ancient times did not care about their children being poor or rich. Why didn't they leave lots of wealth to their children? It is because the ancient wise men knew that it was better to bequeath to their children noble virtues and strict manners. The noble men's children inherited pure characters and simple living styles.
Shun, an ancient Emperor more than four thousand years ago, was born to a lower class family, but he became an emperor because he diligently cultivated his virtue. His offspring inherited his noble characteristics and ruled the country for a long period of time, establishing the Xia Dynasty (around 2000 B.C. to 1766 B.C.). The Zhou family started accumulating virtue from Houji, a farming deity more than four thousands years ago. It passed to Gongliu, Houji's great grandson, to Zhou Wenwang, the tenth generation down from Gongliu, and finally down to Zhou Wuwang, Wenwang's son, who took over the Yinshang Dynasty (1766 B.C. -1122 B.C.) and established the Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.-256B.C.).
The Book of Songs (Shijing, a collection of 305 poems and lyrics edited by Confucius around 600 B.C.) says, "Zhou Wenwang accumulated virtue, emphasized manners, and passed these characteristics to his offspring. That enabled his country to be safe, the society to be stable, and helped his children rule the country for 800 years even when their relatives prospered and established small counties all over the country. Wouldn't you say that their ancestors left huge profits to their children?"