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Confucius

Chinese Philosopher

551-479 B.C.

A selection from
THE ANALECTS

Narrated by John Lescault

Download mp3 file: The Analects

This file is 5.9 MB; running time is 12 minutes
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The Master said, 'At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.

'At thirty, I stood firm.

'At forty, I had no doubts.

'At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.

'At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.

'At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.'

The Master said, 'The superior man, extensively studying all learning, and keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, may thus likewise not overstep what is right.'

The Master said, 'The sage and the man of perfect virtue;— how dare I rank myself with them? It may simply be said of me, that I strive to become such without satiety, and teach others without weariness.'

'It is not easy to find a man who has learned for three years without coming to be good.' With sincere faith he unites the love of learning; holding firm to death, he is perfecting the excellence of his course.

The Master said, 'The prosecution of learning may be compared to what may happen in raising a mound. If there want but one basket of earth to complete the work, and I stop, the stopping is my own work. It may be compared to throwing down the earth on the level ground. Though but one basketful is thrown at a time, the advancing with it is my own going forward.'

Tsze-lu asked whether he should immediately carry into practice what he heard. The Master said, 'There are your father and elder brothers to be consulted;— why should you act on that principle of immediately carrying into practice what you hear?' Zan Yu asked the same, whether he should immediately carry into practice what he heard, and the Master answered, 'Immediately carry into practice what you hear.' Kung-hsi Hwa said, 'Yu asked whether he should carry immediately into practice what he heard, and you said, "There are your father and elder brothers to be consulted." Ch'iu asked whether he should immediately carry into practice what he heard, and you said, "Carry it immediately into practice." I, Ch'ih, am perplexed, and venture to ask you for an explanation.' The Master said, 'Ch'iu is retiring and slow; therefore, I urged him forward. Yu has more than his own share of energy; therefore I kept him back.'

Yen Yuan asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, 'To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him. Is the practice of perfect virtue from a man himself, or is it from others?'

Yen Yuan said, 'I beg to ask the steps of that process.' The Master replied, 'Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety.' Yen Yuan then said, 'Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigour, I will make it my business to practise this lesson.'

Tsze-chang asked what constituted intelligence. The Master said, 'He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful, may be called intelligent indeed. Yea, he with whom neither soaking slander, nor startling statements, are successful, may be called farseeing.'

Tsze-kung asked about government. The Master said, 'The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.'

Tsze-kung said, 'If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?' 'The military equipment,' said the Master.

Tsze-kung again asked, 'If it cannot be helped, and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?' The Master answered, 'Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.'

Tsze-lu said, 'The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?'

The Master replied, 'What is necessary is to rectify names.'

'So, indeed!' said Tsze-lu. 'You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?'

The Master said, 'How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

'If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

'When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

'Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.'

The Duke Ting asked whether there was a single sentence which could make a country prosperous. Confucius replied, 'Such an effect cannot be expected from one sentence.

'There is a saying, however, which people have— "To be a prince is difficult; to be a minister is not easy."

'If a ruler knows this,— the difficulty of being a prince,— may there not be expected from this one sentence the prosperity of his country?'

The duke then said, 'Is there a single sentence which can ruin a country?' Confucius replied, 'Such an effect as that cannot be expected from one sentence. There is, however, the saying which people have— "I have no pleasure in being a prince, but only in that no one can offer any opposition to what I say!"

'If a ruler's words be good, is it not also good that no one oppose them? But if they are not good, and no one opposes them, may there not be expected from this one sentence the ruin of his country?'

Tsze-kung asked, saying, 'What do you say of a man who is loved by all the people of his neighborhood?' The Master replied, 'We may not for that accord our approval of him.' 'And what do you say of him who is hated by all the people of his neighborhood?' The Master said, 'We may not for that conclude that he is bad. It is better than either of these cases that the good in the neighborhood love him, and the bad hate him.'

The Master said, 'The superior man is easy to serve and difficult to please. If you try to please him in any way which is not accordant with right, he will not be pleased. But in his employment of men, he uses them according to their capacity. The mean man is difficult to serve, and easy to please. If you try to please him, though it be in a way which is not accordant with right, he may be pleased. But in his employment of men, he wishes them to be equal to everything.'

Tsze-lu asked what constituted the superior man.

The Master said, 'The cultivation of himself in reverential carefulness.' 'And is this all?' said Tsze-lu. 'He cultivates himself so as to give rest to others,' was the reply. 'And is this all?' again asked Tsze-lu. The Master said, 'He cultivates himself so as to give rest to all the people. He cultivates himself so as to give rest to all the people:— even Yao and Shun were still solicitous about this.'

'The superior person has nine things which are subjects with him of thoughtful consideration. In regard to the use of his eyes, he is anxious to see clearly. In regard to the use of his ears, he is anxious to hear distinctly. In regard to his countenance, he is anxious that it should be benign. In regard to his demeanor, he is anxious that it should be respectful. In regard to his speech, he is anxious that it should be sincere. In regard to his doing of business, he is anxious that it should be reverently careful. In regard to what he doubts about, he is anxious to question others. When he is angry, he thinks of the difficulties (his anger may involve him in). When he sees gain to be got, he thinks of righteousness.'

The Master said, 'Yu, have you heard the six words to which are attached six becloudings?' Yu replied, 'I have not.'

'Sit down, and I will tell them to you.

"There is the love of being benevolent without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to a foolish simplicity. There is the love of knowing without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to dissipation of mind. There is the love of being sincere without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to an injurious disregard of consequences. There is the love of straightforwardness without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to rudeness. There is the love of boldness without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to insubordination. There is the love of firmness without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to extravagant conduct.'

The Master said, 'Without recognising the ordinances of Heaven, it is impossible to be a superior man.

'Without an acquaintance with the rules of Propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.

'Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know each other.'

Tsze-kung asked, saying, 'Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?' The Master said, 'Is not RECIPROCITY such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.'

More information about Confucius from Wikipedia

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