Phien Mâu, or 'Webbed Toes.' (cont.)
4. I will therefore try and discuss this matter. From the commencement of the three dynasties downwards, nowhere has there been a man who has not under (the influence of external) things altered (the course of) his nature. Small men for the sake of gain have sacrificed their persons; scholars for the sake of fame have done so; great officers, for the sake of their families; and sagely men, for the sake of the kingdom. These several classes, with different occupations, and different reputations, have agreed in doing injury to their nature and sacrificing their persons. Take the case of a male and female slave;-- they have to feed the sheep together, but they both lose their sheep. Ask the one what he was doing, and you will find that he was holding his bamboo tablets and reading. Ask the other, and you will find that she was amusing herself with some game. They were differently occupied, but they equally lose their sheep. (So), Po-î died at the foot of Shâu-yang to maintain his fame, and the robber Kih died on the top of Tung-ling in his eagerness for gain. Their deaths were occasioned by different causes, but they equally shortened their lives and did violence to their nature;-- why must we approve of Po-î, and condemn the robber Kih? In cases of such sacrifice all over the world, when one makes it for the sake of benevolence and righteousness, the common people style him 'a superior man,' but when another does it for the sake of goods and riches, they style him 'a small man.' The action of sacrificing is the same, and yet we have 'the superior man' and 'the small man!' In the matter of destroying his life, and doing injury to his nature, the robber Kih simply did the same as Po-î;-- why must we make the distinction of 'superior man' and 'small man' between them?
5. Moreover, those who devote their nature to (the pursuit) of benevolence and righteousness, though they should attain to be like Tsang (Shan) and Shih (Tshiû), I do not pronounce to be good; those who devote it to (the study of) the five flavours, though they attain to be like Shû-r, I do not pronounce to be good; those who devote it to the (discrimination of the) five notes, though they attain to be like Shih Khwang, I do not pronounce to be quick of hearing; those who devote it to the (appreciation of the) five colours, though they attain to be like Lî Kû, I do not pronounce to be clear of vision. When I pronounce men to be good, I am not speaking of their benevolence and righteousness;-- the goodness is simply (their possession of) the qualities (of the Tâo). When I pronounce them to be good, I am not speaking of what are called benevolence and righteousness; but simply of their allowing the nature with which they are endowed to have its free course. When I pronounce men to be quick of hearing, I do not mean that they hearken to anything else, but that they hearken to themselves; when I pronounce them to be clear of vision, I do not mean that they look to anything else, but that they look to themselves. Now those who do not see themselves but see other things, who do not get possession of themselves but get possession of other things, get possession of what belongs to others, and not of what is their own; and they reach forth to what attracts others, and not to that in themselves which should attract them. But thus reaching forth to what attracts others and not to what should attract them in themselves, be they like the robber Kih or like Po-î, they equally err in the way of excess or of perversity. What I am ashamed of is erring in the characteristics of the Tâo, and therefore, in the higher sphere, I do not dare to insist on the practice of benevolence and righteousness, and, in the lower, I do not dare to allow myself either in the exercise of excess or perversity.