Confucius Learning from The Book of Changes
One day, Confucius was reading the book Yi
(also called Zhou Yi or Yi Jing
and translated as The Book of Changes
). He heaved several sighs when reading the chapter that dealt with predictions of bad or good luck.
Zixia, one of his students, noticing him sighing, approached and asked, “Teacher, why did you sigh?”
Confucius replied, “I enlightened a lot from the wisdom in the Yi
. It told me that people who perceived insufficiencies in themselves will receive benefits and conceited people will face difficulties. That’s why I sighed in admiration.”
Zixia asked, “Can they not receive benefits from studying?”
Confucius answered, “No. The heaven’s laws would not allow such a success to be long-lasting.” Confucius' words mean that success can be fleeting. If people study hard and with a humble attitude, they are likely to learn more. But if they are not humble in seeking knowledge, even if they realize their own shortcomings, no amount of knowledge will do them any good.
Confucius continued, “When Yao became the emperor, he still treated others with respect and humility, and was strict with himself. His country was stronger after a hundred years and his merits are known even today. Kunwu (a chieftain of the Xia Dynasty) regarded himself as infallible. When he reached the highest position, his greed continued, and soon he fell. Today, people have even more hatred for him. Isn’t this proof of harm and benefit? A humble attitude is the key to maintaining one’s position.
Everything goes in cycles. When the sun is at its brightest at noontime, it is also when it begins its decline. When the moon is full, it is about to start on its way to being a crescent.
A sage should not become arrogant. When there are three people in a carriage, he should step out and let the others ride. If there are two people, he should be courteous and respectful to the other. He needs to be willing to adjust his behavior to suit the situation, and only thus would he be a sage for a long time.”
Zixia listened carefully to Confucius’ lecture and said, “Good! I will remember what you taught me for the rest of my life.”