From the Sacred Works of Mencius: Gong Sun Chou I - P1/2    
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“Works of Mencius” (Mengzi): Gong Sun Chou I

Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius, saying, “Master, if you were to obtain the ordering of the government in Qi, could you promise yourself to accomplish anew such results as those realized by Guan Zhong and Yan?” Mencius said, “You are indeed a true man of Qi. You know about Guan Zhong and Yan, and nothing more. Someone asked Zeng Xi, saying, ‘Sir, to which do you give the superiority, to yourself or to Zi Lu?’ Zeng Zi looked uneasy, and said, ‘He was an object of veneration to my grandfather.’ ‘Then,’ pursued the other, ‘Do you give the superiority to yourself or to Guan Zhong?’ Zeng Zi, flushed with anger and displeased, said, ‘How dare you compare me with Guan Zhong? Considering how entirely Guan Zhong possessed the confidence of his prince, how long he enjoyed the direction of the government of the State, and how low, after all, was what he accomplished – how is it that you liken me to him?’ Thus,” concluded Mencius, “Zeng Xi would not play Guan Zhong, and is it what you desire for me that I should do so?”

Gong Sun Chou said, “Guan Zhong raised his prince to be the leader of all the other princes, and Yan made his prince illustrious, and do you still think it would not be enough for you to do what they did?” Mencius answered, “To raise Qi to the royal dignity would be as easy as it is to turn round the hand.”

“So!” returned the other. “The perplexity of your disciple is hereby very much increased. There was King Wen, moreover, with all the virtue which belonged to him; and who did not die till he had reached a hundred years – and still his influence had not penetrated throughout the kingdom. It required King Wu and the Duke of Zhou to continue his course, before that influence greatly prevailed. Now you say that the royal dignity might be so easily obtained – is King Wen then not a sufficient object for imitation?”

Mencius said, “How can King Wen be matched? From Tang to Wu Ding there had appeared six or seven worthy and sage sovereigns. The kingdom had been attached to Yin for a long time, and this length of time made a change difficult. Wu Ding had all the princes coming to his court, and possessed the kingdom as if it had been a thing which he moved round in his palm. Then, Zhou was removed from Wu Ding by no great interval of time. There were still remaining some of the ancient families and of the old manners, of the influence also which had emanated from the earlier sovereigns, and of their good government.

Moreover, there were the Viscount of Wei and his second son, their Royal Highnesses Bi Gan and the Viscount of Qi, and Jiao Ge, all men of ability and virtue, who gave their joint assistance to Zhou in his government. In consequence of these things, it took a long time for him to lose the throne. There was not a foot of ground which he did not possess. There was not one of all the people who was not his subject. So it was on his side, and King Wen at his beginning had only a territory of one hundred square li. On all these accounts, it was difficult for him immediately to attain to the royal dignity. The people of Qi have a saying – ‘A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like embracing the favorable opportunity. A man may have instruments of husbandry, but that is not like waiting for the farming seasons.’

The present time is one in which the royal dignity may be easily attained. In the flourishing periods of the Xia, Yin, and Zhou dynasties, the royal domain did not exceed a thousand li, and Qi embraces so much territory. Cocks crow and dogs bark to one another, all the way to the four borders of the State – so Qi possesses the people. No change is needed for the enlarging of its territory; no change is needed for the collecting of a population. If its ruler will put in practice a benevolent government, no power will be able to prevent his becoming sovereign.

Moreover, never was there a time farther removed than the present from the rise of a true sovereign: never was there a time when the sufferings of the people from tyrannical government were more intense than the present. The hungry readily partake of any food, and the thirsty of any drink. Confucius said, ‘The flowing progress of virtue is more rapid than the transmission of royal orders by stages and couriers.’ At the present time, in a country of ten thousand chariots, let benevolent government be put in practice, and the people will be delighted with it, as if they were relieved from hanging by the heels. With half the merit of the ancients, double their achievements is sure to be realized. It is only at this time that such could be the case.”

Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius, saying, “Master, if you were to be appointed a high noble and the prime minister of Qi, so as to be able to carry your principles into practice, though you should thereupon raise the ruler to the headship of all the other princes, or even to the royal dignity, it would not be to be wondered at. In such a position would your mind be perturbed or not?” Mencius replied, “No. At forty, I attained to an unperturbed mind.”

Chou said, “Since it is so with you, my Master, you are far beyond Meng Ben.” “The mere attainment,” said Mencius, “is not difficult. The scholar Gao had attained to an unperturbed mind at an earlier period of life than I did.”

Gong Sun Chou said, “May I venture to ask an explanation from you, Master, of how you maintain an unperturbed mind, and how the philosopher Gao does the same?” Mencius answered, “Gao 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.”

Chou 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.”

“I venture to ask,” said Chou again, “wherein you, Master, surpass Gao.” Mencius told him, “I understand words. I am skillful in nourishing my vast, flowing passion-nature.”

Chou pursued, “I venture to ask what you mean by your vast, flowing passion-nature!” The reply was, “It is difficult to describe it. 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. This is the passion-nature: It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and reason. Without it, man is in a state of starvation. 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, ‘Gao has never understood righteousness, because he makes it something external.’ 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 Song. There was a man of Song, 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 today. 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.”

Gong Sun Chou 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 the government, are hurtful to the conduct of affairs. When a sage shall again arise, he will certainly follow my words.”

On this Chou observed, “Zai Wo and Zi Gong were skillful in speaking. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan, 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?” Mencius said, “Oh! what words are these? Formerly Zi Gong 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.’ Zi Gong 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?”

Chou said, “Formerly, I once heard this: Zi Xia, Zi You, and Zi Zhang had each one member of the sage. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan had all the members, but in small proportions. I venture to ask, with which of these are you pleased to rank yourself?” Mencius replied, “Let us drop speaking about these, if you please.”

Chou then asked, “What do you say of Bo Yi and Yi 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 Bo Yi. 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 Yi 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.”
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January . 2020