A person is established in character only when he truly knows
himself. Why? It is difficult for a person to be aware of his own
flaws, just as he cannot see his own back, though it is in plain
sight of other people. It is quite natural for a person to hide
his own flaws, but overdoing it will alienate the person from those
around him. When the person realizes this and feels ashamed, he
turns to seek knowledge and adhere to moral integrity so as to establish
his own character and win the respect and support of other people.
One must know oneself before one can truly be a human being. What
is the rationale behind this? Why must we know ourselves before
we can truly call ourselves a human being? Although we all consider
ourselves as human beings right now, the conduct of many of us is
worse than that of animals. The essential character of some people
cannot even be called the essential character of a true human being,
because a lot of us fail to understand ourselves. Only by understanding
ourselves can we truly be a human being. We generally cannot see
our own mistakes. Even if we see our own shortcomings, we forgive
them. It is difficult to understand ourselves because we all hold
our own individual internal principles and stubbornness. It is just
like the fact that we cannot see our own backside. No matter how
hard we try, we cannot lean our head back far enough to see our
backside, but others can see it very easily and clearly. It is the
same with our mistakes and shortcomings. We cannot see them, but
outsiders can see them from every angle without us knowing it. So
to make others like us, we have to hide our mistakes and conceal
our flaws. It is human nature. Some people try too hard to hide
their mistakes or flaws. Their strenuous and fierce efforts are
excessive. In the long run, no one wants to be with them or work
with them. People feel they are too selfish, too negative. If we
can acknowledge our inadequacies, understand our mistakes and shortcomings,
and try to acquire knowledge with a humble mind, then our ways will
naturally comport with ethical standards. You can then become a
true human being. When people witness your behavior and state of
mind, they will naturally respect you and help you willingly. Therefore,
by knowing yourself, you will be able to successfully develop yourself.
By successfully developing yourself, you will then receive respect
and support, and everything in the world will then be complete.
In a dispute about right and wrong, there is nothing worse than
to stick to one’s position and continue arguing, thus compounding
one’s wrong and finally getting into trouble. For this reason, one
should not let oneself be overwhelmed by disputes.
Love and hate arise from a combination of causes. People cannot love
a thing without seeing it, hearing about it or remembering it. Without
one of the these experiences, there will be no feeling, whether love
It is exceedingly foolish for a person to claim that he possesses
the ability to meet all social needs. Viewed against the background
of the infinity of such needs, the ability of an individual is as
insignificant as a speck of dust. Even in the one area of activity
in which he claims superiority, the ability of an individual pales
because there are always many others who can do better.
How much one learns from his teacher depends a great deal on the guidance
his teacher provides him. A good teacher, therefore, should be a role
model for his students in moral integrity as well as scholarship,
and his students should strive to reach high levels through accumulating
knowledge and attaining moral integrity. In this manner learning is
a part of the way to human perfection.
The construction of a tall building begins with the laying of groundwork
from which it goes up floor by floor. Structures resting on nothing
are seen only in a mirage. Building up a career is like putting up
a building: what is needed are firm steps taken one after another
toward the goal and executed with the support of true knowledge gained
from experience. These steps, aided by a defiance of obstacles, will
eventually lead one to success.
One in good fortune should remember the days in woe. A good soldier
knows that battle victories are just as common as defeats. It is too
late to remember one’s umbrella when he is caught in a downpour without
Profound wisdom and ability are the inner qualities of a person who
possesses them. A person lacking in these qualities but trying to
impress people that he is in possession of them is not to be taken
seriously. Bamboo with its hollow interior can never support a building.
When one is held up by obstacles on his way to a rendezvous, he should
back down so that he may reach his destination sooner. It is like
driving a car in reverse gear; one does that because he will be able
to drive forward faster later on.
The one who is only good at reciting other’s works is ignorant. The
value in such works lies in their application to reality. A brilliant
university graduate, or a master of the Four Books and Five Scriptures,
without knowing how to put what he has learned into practice, can
hardly fend for himself and offers no benefit to society. Only when
the masterpieces are in put into use can they be powerful in terms
of social advancement. It is only then that knowledge is transformed
into a material force.
Undue haste causes delay, and procrastination causes loss. With this
point of view, one shall choose the Middle Way as a principle. When
a violin is tuned too low, its strings produce disharmony, but when
it’s tuned too high, the strings are likely to snap.
What standards does one go by in choosing a person for a particular
undertaking? It is both weaknesses and strengths that make a person
what he is; these qualities are inseparable. Don’t dismiss a candidate
just because of his weaknesses, or you will end up with no candidates
at all. The wise thing to do is to give him a chance to make the best
of his strengths.
Deliberation is needed before one makes a move, but no conclusion
is to be drawn from deliberation alone. It has to be tested in action.
Suggested moves are not to be adopted in haste, nor are they to be
rejected out of hand; they are not to be dismissed even when tests
have proved them worthless, for in this case an inquiry into their
legitimacy has to be made. When a rainbow is blocked from view by
clouds, it does not mean that there is no rainbow out there.
A person not appreciative of the good life he is living is one who
has forgotten his past miseries. A person in good health is not aware
of its blessings until he loses it.
A wise person knows that negative experiences in life are just as
useful as positive ones. That is why he remembers both of them. Negative
experiences are taken as warnings against erring and positive ones
as means to increase the well-being of others. Such is the attitude
of a wise person toward life experiences.
When a person says that he never errs, he is whitewashing his error
and thus erring.
What makes the sun the greatest thing man has ever known? It is admired
for providing light and warmth for all the beings under it. A truly
great person is one who is willing to sacrifice his own benefit for
the well-being of others.
There is nothing more foolish than for one to believe that all one
sees is reason and the universe is created from it. Whenever one measures
everything from one’s own standards, that person is demonstrating
Anger over other people’s faults is a demon. It torments the person
possessed by it while leaving the wrongdoers alone.
The respect a person enjoys comes from his devotion to the well-being
of other people. A swimming pool is admired in summer because it provides
relief from the heat.
A city does not need all the food a province produces, but that much
food is far from enough to feed the whole country; it needs all the
food the country can produce. The strength of an individual is nothing
compared with collective strength.
What to do to beat your equal in battle? Attack him where he is most
vulnerable with concentrated force and victory will be yours. A piece
of wood with a sharp end can break another piece of wood that is just
as hard as the wood you use to attack.