Wisdom of Life

Confucius: On the Wisdom and Meaning of Life

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of man.

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one. Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Fix your mind on truth, hold firm to virtue, rely on loving kindness, and find your recreation in the Arts. Consideration for others is the basis of a good life.

If there were one word that could act as a standard of conduct for one’s entire life, perhaps it would be “thoughtfulness“. Your life is what your thoughts make it. The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. Learn as if you were not reaching your goal and as though you were scared of missing it. The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Men do not stumble over mountains, but over molehills. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right. If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children. Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace. Let a ruler base his government upon virtuous principles, and he will be like the pole-star, which remains steadfast in its place, while all the host of stars turn towards it.

Study the past if you would define the future. Respect yourself and others will respect you. If you don’t want to do something, don’t impose on others. A man should demand much from himself, but little from others. When you meet a man of worth, think how you may attain to his excellence. When you meet an unworthy one, then look within and examine yourself.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get. The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. Knowledge is merely brilliance in organization of ideas and not wisdom. The truly wise person goes beyond knowledge. Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. The man of wisdom is never of two minds; the man of benevolence never worries; the man of courage is never afraid.

When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others. The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others. A man of humanity is one who, in seeking to establish himself, finds a foothold for others and who, in desiring attaining himself, helps others to attain.

The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith. Coarse rice to eat, water to drink, my bended arm for a pillow — therein is happiness. Wealth and rank attained through immoral means are nothing but drifting clouds.

For this reason the gentleman will employ a man on a distant mission and observe his degree of loyalty, will employ him close at hand and observe his degree of respect. He will hand him troublesome affairs and observe how well he manages them, will suddenly ask his advice and observe how wisely he answers. He will exact some difficult promise from him and see how well he keeps it, turn over funds to him and see with what benevolence he dispenses them, inform him of the danger he is in and note how faithful he is to his duties. He will get him drunk with wine and observe how well he handles himself, place him in mixed company and see what effect beauty has upon him. By applying these nine tests, you may determine who is the unworthy man.

He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions. The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.

At fifteen I set my heart upon learning.
At thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground.
At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities.
At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven.
At sixty, I heard them with docile ear.
At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart;
for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right.”

If what one has to say is not better than silence, then one should keep silent.

Heaven means to be one with God.

And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

***

~Confucius was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who was traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages.

Quotes from Analects of Confucius.

Excellence Reporter 2020

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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