Traditional Culture: Confucius and Zi Gong
(Clearwisdom.net) Zi Gong was from the State of Wei during the "Spring and Autumn Period" (722BC - 481BC). He studied with Confucius and took him as his Master. After he finished his study he asked, "What type of person am I?" Confucius said, "You are an asset."
Zi Gong often had very good opinions and speech. He said, "Gentleman making mistakes are just like the sun and moon during a solar and lunar eclipse. When it happens, people all can see it, when he corrects it, people still admire him."
Zi Gong once said, "If I don't like what others do unto myself, I don't do this to others." This is already in the realm of "benevolence." Therefore Confucius said, "This is not the realm you are able to achieve."
Zi Gong asked, "How about do not be swayed if poor, and not be overbearing if rich?" Confucius said, "This is good. But it will be better that if you are poor, you will still be happy and if you are rich, you will like good manners." Confucius continued to say, "The principle you mentioned is very good. But you still cannot rise above the thoughts of poor and rich. If you can achieve 'not being swayed if poor, not being overbearing if rich', I believe you have already expended a lot of effort. But, if you can follow the predestined life arrangement of poor and rich and concentrate on seeking the truth, then your heart will not be constrained by the thoughts of being poor or rich. If this is true, then why would you need to worry about how to live within the poor or rich situation?"
Confucius' words let Zi Gong suddenly understand a higher level of truth. He said to Confucius, "Master, The Book of Songs [Shijing, a collection of 305 poems and lyrics edited by Confucius around 600 B.C.] says that we should treat anything we are doing as processing bone, ivory, jade and stone, which encourages people to learn from each other and constantly make improvement. Master you have used a higher level of truth to enlighten me. Doesn't this conform to the words in The Book of Songs?" Confucius smiled and said, "Yes, you are right. I told you how things have happened before, and then you can understand how things will happen later. Moreover you truly understand the meanings of the poetry. I can begin to talk about the poetry with you from now on." Zi Gong was very happy after he heard Confucius' words.
Later Zi Gong served as an official in the state of Wei. Some people slandered Confucius. Zi Gong said, "Confucius is unable to be slandered. Other men of virtue are like the knoll and can be exceeded. But Confucius is like the sun and the moon and cannot be exceeded. Those people who slander Confucius can only put themselves in a hopeless situation. But they cannot harm anything of the sun or the moon. Moreover, it will also show that they do not know their own position."
Chen Ziqin said to Zi Gong, "You treat Confucius so respectfully. Does Confucius have more virtue than you?"
Zi Gong said, "Just one word from a gentleman can show his wisdom, but it can also show his stupidity. We should be careful about what we say! Confucius is unlikely to be exceeded. It is just like we cannot climb up a ladder to reach the sky. If Confucius was to become a feudal lord or minister, if he were to encourage the people, they would exert themselves; if he were to guide the people, they would move forward; if he would conciliate with the people, they would follow him; and if he were to harmonize the people, they would be harmonious."
Zi Gong liked to praise others' virtue and couldn't tolerate others' vice. He also liked to do business. He used the price difference during different seasons to buy goods when they were cheaper and sell them when they were more expensive. He accumulated a lot of wealth. Finally he lived his later years peacefully in the state of Qi.