Benevolence Begins With Oneself (Part 2 of 2)
A Sage Is Able To Bring Teachings Everywhere
A long time ago, the farmers on Mount Li invaded the borders of farmland that belonged to others. Emperor Shun (2294 – 2184 BC) went to the foot of Mount Li to farm the land. After one year, incidents like that did not happen again. Another time, the fishermen by the bank of the Yellow River competed with each other for the high grounds in the river. Shun went there to fish. A year later, the fishermen learned to respect the elderly. In the area of East Yi, the ceramic makers often produced low quality products. Shun went there to make ceramics. One year later, the ceramics produced in that area were of good quality.
Confucius praised, "Farming, fishing, and ceramic making were actions governed by Shun. Shun went to those places to teach the people to farm, fish, and produce ceramics. Shun touched the people's heart with his honest, trustworthy, benevolent, and virtuous behavior. The people were willing to learn from him. This is how a sage enlightens people. A sage teaches virtue through his actions."
Be Strict With Oneself But Treat Others With Tolerance
During the Spring and Autumn, and the Warring States Period (771 – 221 BC), the army of the State of Jin attacked the State of Chu. Although the Chu army retreated 90 li (Chinese measure for distance, about 25 miles), the Jin army continued their attack. Chu's generals pleaded with King Zhuang of Chu (? – 591 BC), "Please let us counterattack." King Zhuang replied, "When the previous King of Chu was in charge, the State of Jin did not invade Chu. However, Jin is now attacking us during my ruling of Chu. This is my fault. If I give an order to counterattack, Chu's generals will be disgraced and hurt. How can I allow that to happen?" The generals responded, "When the previous King of Chu was around, Jin did not attack Chu. However, now that we are the generals, Jin is attacking us. This is our fault. Please allow us to counterattack." King Zhuang lowered his head and sobbed for a while. Then he got up and made a gesture of respect to each general.
Upon hearing what happened in the State of Chu, the Jin people said, "The King and the generals of Chu can all admit their faults, and the King of Chu was humble and courteous toward them. Obviously they are all united, and their troops are coordinated. Therefore, we may not be able to conquer Chu if we press forward." As a result, the Jin troops retreated overnight.
Confucius made a comment about the incident, "With a few words in the imperial court, King Zhuang of Chu was able to keep the enemy's army at bay thousands of li away. Because the King and the officials placed importance on the cultivation of their moral character, the nation lived in peace. It is no wonder that the State of Chu became a strong state. This is the principle stated in a poem from the Classic of Poetry
- 'By treating everyone near and far away with tolerance and modesty, the nation will be stable'."
When a virtuous person encounters any situation, especially during hardships, one should remind oneself with morality and be strict with oneself. On the surface it seems that one is preserving the righteous principles, but in reality one is preserving one’s own conscience and instinct. One should always remember to perform duties with a calm and peaceful heart, be strict with oneself but treat others with tolerance, and treat all beings benevolently.