The Works of Mencius

Book 2, Part 1 (cont.): Kung-sun Ch'au


Chapter 2. (cont.)

That Mencius had attained to an unperturbed mind; that the means by which he had done so was his knowledge of words and the nourishment of his passion-nature; and that in this he was a follower of Confucius.

9. Kung-sun Ch'âu said, 'May I venture to ask an explanation from you, Master, of how you maintain an unperturbed mind, and how the philosopher Kâo does the same?' Mencius answered,'Kâo says,-- "What is not attained in words is not to be sought for in the mind; what produces dissatisfaction in the mind, is not to be helped by passion-effort." This last,-- when there is unrest in the mind, not to seek for relief from passion-effort, may be conceded. But not to seek in the mind for what is not attained in words cannot be conceded. The will is the leader of the passion-nature. The passion-nature pervades and animates the body. The will is first and chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate to it. Therefore I say,-- Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature.'

10. Ch'âu observed, 'Since you say-- "The will is chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate," how do you also say, "Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature?"' Mencius replied, 'When it is the will alone which is active, it moves the passion-nature. When it is the passion-nature alone which is active, it moves the will. For instance now, in the case of a man falling or running, that is from the passion-nature, and yet it moves the mind.'

11. 'I venture to ask,' said Ch'âu again, 'wherein you, Master, surpass Kâo.' Mencius told him, 'I understand words. I am skilful in nourishing my vast, flowing passion-nature.'

12. Ch'âu pursued, 'I venture to ask what you mean by your vast, flowing passion-nature!' The reply was, 'It is difficult to describe it.

13. 'This is the passion-nature:-- It is exceedingly great, and exceedingly strong. Being nourished by rectitude, and sustaining no injury, it fills up all between heaven and earth.

14. 'This is the passion-nature:-- It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and reason. Without it, man is in a state of starvation.

15. 'It is produced by the accumulation of righteous deeds; it is not to be obtained by incidental acts of righteousness. If the mind does not feel complacency in the conduct, the nature becomes starved. I therefore said, "Kâo has never understood righteousness, because he makes it something external."

16. 'There must be the constant practice of this righteousness, but without the object of thereby nourishing the passion-nature. Let not the mind forget its work, but let there be no assisting the growth of that nature. Let us not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very stupid, and said to his people, "I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long." His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered. There are few in the world, who do not deal with their passion-nature, as if they were assisting the corn to grow long. Some indeed consider it of no benefit to them, and let it alone:-- they do not weed their corn. They who assist it to grow long, pull out their corn. What they do is not only of no benefit to the nature, but it also injures it.'

17. Kung-sun Ch'âu further asked, 'What do you mean by saying that you understand whatever words you hear?' Mencius replied, 'When words are one-sided, I know how the mind of the speaker is clouded over. When words are extravagant, I know how the mind is fallen and sunk. When words are all-depraved, I know how the mind has departed from principle. When words are evasive, I know how the mind is at its wit's end. These evils growing in the mind, do injury to government, and, displayed in th government, are hurtful to the conduct of affairs. When a Sage shall again arise, he will certainly follow my words.'

18. On this Ch'âu observed, 'Tsâi Wo and Tsze-kung were skilful in speaking. Zan Niû, the disciple Min, and Yen Yüan, while their words were good, were distinguished for their virtuous conduct. Confucius united the qualities of the disciples in himself, but still he said, "In the matter of speeches, I am not competent."-- Then, Master, have you attained to be a Sage?'

19. Mencius said, 'Oh! what words are these? Formerly Tsze-kung asked Confucius, saying, "Master, are you a Sage?" Confucius answered him, "A Sage is what I cannot rise to. I learn without satiety, and teach without being tired." Tsze-kung said, "You learn without satiety:-- that shows your wisdom. You teach without being tired:-- that shows your benevolence. Benevolent and wise:-- Master, you ARE a Sage." Now, since Confucius would not allow himself to be regarded as a Sage, what words were those?'

20. Ch'âu said, 'Formerly, I once heard this:-- Tsze-hsiâ, Tsze-yû, and Tsze-chang had each one member of the Sage. Zan Niû, the disciple Min, and Yen Yüan had all the members, but in small proportions. I venture to ask,-- With which of these are you pleased to rank yourself?'

21. Mencius replied, 'Let us drop speaking about these, if you please.'

22. Ch'âu then asked, 'What do you say of Po-î and Î Yin?' 'Their ways were different from mine,' said Mencius. 'Not to serve a prince whom he did not esteem, nor command a people whom he did not approve; in a time of good government to take office, and on the occurrence of confusion to retire:-- this was the way of Po-î. To say-- "Whom may I not serve? My serving him makes him my ruler. What people may I not command? My commanding them makes them my people." In a time of good government to take office, and when disorder prevailed, also to take office:-- that was the way of Î Yin. When it was proper to go into office, then to go into it; when it was proper to keep retired from office, then to keep retired from it; when it was proper to continue in it long, then to continue in it long - when it was proper to withdraw from it quickly, then to withdraw quickly:-- that was the way of Confucius. These were all sages of antiquity, and I have not attained to do what they did. But what I wish to do is to learn to be like Confucius.'

23. Ch'âu said, 'Comparing Po-î and Î Yin with Confucius, are they to be placed in the same rank?' Mencius replied, 'No. Since there were living men until now, there never was another Confucius.'

24. Ch'âu said, 'Then, did they have any points of agreement with him?' The reply was,-- 'Yes. If they had been sovereigns over a hundred lî of territory, they would, all of them, have brought all the princes to attend in their court, and have obtained the throne. And none of them, in order to obtain the throne, would have committed one act of unrighteousness, or put to death one innocent person. In those things they agreed with him.'

25. Ch'âu said, 'I venture to ask wherein he differed from them.' Mencius replied, 'Tsâi Wo, Tsze-kung, and Yû Zo had wisdom sufficient to know the sage. Even had they been ranking themselves low, they would not have demeaned themselves to flatter their favourite.

26. 'Now, Tsâi Wo said, "According to my view of our Master, he was far superior to Yâo and Shun."

27. 'Tsze-kung said, "By viewing the ceremonial ordinances of a prince, we know the character of his government. By hearing his music, we know the character of his virtue. After the lapse of a hundred ages I can arrange, according to their merits, the kings of a hundred ages;-- not one of them can escape me. From the birth of mankind till now, there has never been another like our Master."

28. 'Yû Zo said, "Is it only among men that it is so? There is the Ch'î-lin among quadrupeds, the Fang-hwang among birds, the T'âi mountain among mounds and ant-hills, and rivers and seas among rain-pools. Though different in degree, they are the same in kind. So the sages among mankind are also the same in kind. But they stand out from their fellows, and rise above the level, and from the birth of mankind till now, there never has been one so complete as Confucius."'