A Stroll Through Literature and History: Confucius Valued Virtue and Advocated Education (Part I)
(Minghui.org) Confucius dedicated his life to carrying forward and advocating traditional Chinese culture by making culture and education an important part of life. He educated people, taught them proper human conduct, and emphasized the moral way to handle current matters and solve life problems. Below are a few stories from The Analects of Confucius and Confucius's Precepts to his Family.
I. The Heart of a Saint
One day Confucius was touring Nong Mountain in the North with his disciples Zilu, Zigong, and Yanhui. Upon reaching the summit, Confucius looked into the distance, heaved a deep sigh and said, “Standing high one can see afar. Why don't you each tell me your ambitions without holding anything back? I will pick one.”
Zilu stepped up and said, “I wish arrows were decorated with white feathers, and flags with red. Amidst bugle calls, bells, and drums, I would lead the army and drive the enemies away, in a spurt of energy reclaiming a thousand miles of lost land. Zigong and Yanhui could offer me advice.” Confucius praised him and said, “Brave!”
Zigong stepped up and said, “One day the armies of the state of Qi and the state of Chu confront each other in the field. Just at the brink of battle, I will show up in a white robe and white hat and illustrate the price of war to the two states. Without costing a single soldier, I will resolve the dispute between them. Zilu and Yanhui could help by supporting me.” Confucius said, “Eloquent!”
Yanhui was silent. Confucius asked him, “Yanhui, don't you have any ambitions to share with us?” Yanhui answered, “They have covered both civil and military affairs. What's left for me?”
Confucius said, “Even so, everyone has his ambitions. Do share with us.” Yanhui said, “I wish I could assist a wise king and educate people using rites and music. The king will apply the Tao to the entire kingdom. The officials will touch many lives with virtue. Common folks will foster harmonious relations and good faith and live and work in peace and contentment. Weapons will be melted down and turned into farming tools, cities will become farmland. People will be kind to their neighbors and friends. The surrounding countries, inspired by the kingdom's integrity and sense of justice, will rest their armies and make a truce. If the entire world were like this, there would be no need to worry about war. If this day comes, there will be no need for Zilu and Zigong to deliver people from misery.” Confucius praised him, “Wonderful! Full of virtue.”
Zilu asked, “Master, which one would you pick?”
Confucius said, “Because it does no financial damage or harm and is without exaggeration, I pick Yanhui's. ”
Believing the Tao will save the world and help people live in peace and serenity was indeed Confucius' aspiration.
II. A Vessel of Warning
One day Confucius paid a visit to the ancestral temple of Zhou and saw a vessel. Confucius asked the caretaker of the temple, "What vessel is that?"
The caretaker replied, "It is a Warning Vessel."
Confucius said, "I have heard that when a Warning Vessel is empty it leans at an angle, when half full it stands straight, and when full it turns over. Is this true?"
The caretaker replied,"Yes, it is."
Confucius had disciples bring water to try it, and it was indeed so.
Confucius heaved a sigh and said, "Ah, does it ever happen that those who are full do not turn over!"
Zilu said, “Master, are you saying that when people are like the vessel when it is full of water, they tend to be self-righteous and cling to their own course, which leads to failure? I should like to ask whether there is a method for controlling fullness?”
Confucius said, “The way to control fullness is to repress and diminish it--always leave room in the heart.”
Zilu asked, “Is there a method for diminishing it?”
Confucius said, “Let those whose virtuous conduct is ample preserve it by being reverent. Let those whose territory is extensive preserve it by economy. Let those whose pay is rich and whose rank is elevated preserve them with humility. Let those whose people are many and whose weapons are strong preserve them by fear. Let those possessed of intelligence and knowledge preserve them through [an air of] stupidity. Let those with great learning and strong memories preserve them through [an air of] shallowness. Now this is what I mean by repressing and diminishing. As said in the Book of Song, 'Emperor Tang of Shang was eager to be courteous to others, therefore people respected him even more.'”
Ancient people often used warning vessels to discipline themselves, and they were diligent, moderate, and humble. What's important for people to behold? Humble character, which is human nature. How to behold? Have a broad and humble mind, just like the sky covers everything and the earth can hold everything, one should hold without overflowing.
III. Doing What Is Right
Confucius met the king of the state of Liang. The King of Liang asked, “I want to preserve my power as king forever. I want to obtain the land and treasures of every vassal state. I want people to always trust me, I want the land to exhaust its ability to serve. I want the sun and moon to rise and fall according to my will. I want saints to come to me of their own will, and I want my government to be good at managing people. How can I accomplish these things?”
Confucius replied, “Kings of large or small states have asked me many questions, but none of them was like yours about ruling a country. However, it is not something impossible to do. I have heard that, if the kings of two countries can respect each other and treat each other with courtesy, then they will never lose their countries. If a king can benefit the people with benevolent policies and officials can serve people with sincerity and integrity, then all the vassal states will gladly submit. If one never kills the innocent or spares the guilty, then people will trust him. If one benefits people with lofty ideals and rewards accomplished officials, then the land will exhaust itself to serve. If one worships the heavens and fears the Gods, then the sun and moon will run their natural course. If one handles penalties well, then saints will come naturally. If one values virtuous people, and lets capable people do the best they can under the management of virtuous people, then the government will manage its people well.”
Confucius taught that right and wrong should be measured by moral principles, and people should never be attached to personal gain. When running into something, the moral thing should be done, and one should do it bravely. Confucius said, “When the Superior Man deals with the world, he is not prejudiced for or against anything. He does what is Right.”
(To Be Continued)