2A. Gong Sun Chou (part one) 公孫丑上
[2A:2] Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius: “Let's say you were to become the prime minister of Qi and have the opportunity to set up a good government. Even though your power would really not be different from that of a king, in handling this, wouldn't you lose your mental stability?”
Mencius said, “No. I haven't lost my mental stability since I was forty.”
Chou said, “Then you have far surpassed Meng Pan.”
Mencius said, “It is not so difficult. Gao-tzu attained mental stability at a younger age than I.”
“Is there a method for attaining mental stability?” asked Chou.
曰、 有。北宮黝之養勇也。 不膚撓、不目逃思以一毫挫於人、若撻之於市朝不受於;;褐寬博、亦不受於萬乘之君視刺萬乘之君、若刺褐夫。無嚴諸侯惡聲至、必反之。
“There is. For example, Pi Gong Yu had a method of developing his courage. When attacked, he would neither flinch nor turn away his eyes. If someone touched a single hair on his body, he would regard it as if he had been publicly beaten in the marketplace. What he would not take from a bum, he would not take from a great prince. He regarded the stabbing of a prince just the same as the stabbing of a bum. He had no fear of the great nobles. If slanderous words reached his ears, he would never let it go by without revenge.”
Mang Shih She also had a method of developing his courage. He said: “I regard victory and defeat as the same. To gauge the enemy and then attack; to plan the victory and then engage—this is to be afraid of the opposing army. How can I be sure of winning? I can only be fearless, and that's all.”
孟施舍似曾子、北宮黝似子夏夫二子之勇、未知其孰賢然而孟施舍守約也。 昔者曾子謂子讓子襄曰、子好勇乎。吾嘗聞大勇於夫子矣。 自反而不縮、雖褐寬博、吾不惴焉。自反而縮、雖千萬人吾往矣。
Mang Shih She was like Tseng Zi. Pi Gong Yu was like Zi Xia. Among Pi Gong and Mang, I don't know who is better, but Mang Shih She focused on the essentials. For example, in former times, Tseng Zi said to Zi Xiang: “So, you like bravery, do you? I have heard from our Master about Great Bravery. If I reflect on myself and find that I am not right, then won't I even fear facing a bum off the street? But if I reflect on myself and find myself to be right, then even if it be an army of one hundred thousand, I will go forward.”
But Meng Shi She's attention to his qi is still not equal to Tseng Zi's attention to the essentials.
[Comment] The Chinese ideograph qi originally means “air,” especially breath. Through Mencius' usage, and the usage of later Daoists, martial artists and the Neo-Confucian school, its meaning becomes quite enhanced.
Here qi, as breath, is understood as the vital connection between body and mind. It is the life-force which animates the body to greater or lesser degrees, depending upon its cultivation toward the vigor and vitality of the individual. In the terms with which Mencius describes it, qi can be compared to the prana of Indian yogic systems, which can be cultivated through breath control and various other yogic practices. One of the most relevant points that Mencius makes in regard to the cultivation of qi, is that this cultivation is dependent, more than anything else, on the uninterrupted practice of fairness.
Chou asked, “Will you please tell me about your ‘mental stability’ in relation to Gao Zi's ‘mental stability’?”
Mencius replied, “Gao Zi says that what cannot be attained through words should not be sought for in the mind, and that what cannot be attained in the mind should not be sought for through the qi. This latter proposition is correct, but the first one is not. The will is the director of the qi, and the qi is something that permeates the body. So the will is primary and the qi is secondary. Therefore, it is said: ‘Hold on to your will; do not scatter your qi.’”
Chou said, “You just said that the will is primary; and the qi is secondary. Now you say, ‘hold on to your will; don't scatter your qi.’ Why do you say this?”
Mencius said, “The will influences the qi and the qi influences the will. For instance, jumping and running, though most directly concerned with the qi, also have an effect on the mind.”
“May I ask in what it is that you are superior?”
“I understand language, and I am good at nourishing my vast qi.”
“What do you mean by ‘vast qi’”?
“That is difficult to explain. qi can be developed to great levels of quantity and stability by correctly nourishing it and not damaging it, to the extent that it fills the space between Heaven and Earth. In developing qi, if you are connected with fairness and the Way, you will never be in want of it. It is something that is produced by accumulating fairness, and is not something that you can grab from superficial attempts at fairness. If you act without mental composure, you will become qi-starved.”
“Therefore I would say that Gao Zi has not yet understood fairness, since he regards it as something external. You must be willing to work at it, understanding that you cannot have precise control over it. You can't forget about it, but you can't force it to grow, either.”
“You don't want to be like the man from Song. There was a man from Song who was worried about the slow growth of his crops and so he went and yanked on them to accelerate their growth. Empty-headed, he returned home and announced to his people: ‘I am so tired today. I have been out stretching the crops.’ His son ran out to look, but the crops had already withered. Those in the world who don't ‘help their crops by pulling’ are few indeed. There are also those who regard all effort as wasteful and don't even weed their crops. But those who think they can hurry their growth along by forcing it, are not only not helping their qi, but actually harming it!”
Chou asked, “What do you mean when you say ‘I understand language’?”
Mencius said, “When I hear deceptive speech, I know what it is covering up. When I hear licentious speech, I know its pitfalls. When I hear crooked speech, I know where it departs from the truth. When I hear evasive speech, I know its emptiness. Once born in a person's mind, these words harm the government. Spreading through the government, they damage all sorts of affairs. When a future sage appears, he will attest to my words.”
Chou said: “Tsai Wo and Zi Gong were eloquent. Zan Niu, Min Zi and Yan Yuan also spoke well but were known for their virtuous conduct. Confucius embodied both, but when questioned about it, said, ‘When it comes to speaking, I am not so good.’ In this case are you (Mencius) a sage?”
Mencius said: “How can you ask me this? When Zi Gong asked Confucius if he was a sage, Confucius said, ‘Sagehood is beyond me. I study without getting bored and teach without getting tired.’ Zi Gong said: ‘Studying without boredom is wisdom, teaching without weariness is humaneness. Having humaneness and wisdom, you are a sage indeed, Master!’”
Now if Confucius could not accept the name of “sage,” how can I?
Chou said, “I once heard this: Zi Xia, Zi Lu and Zi Chang all had one piece of sagehood, and Zan Niu, Min Zi and Yan Yuan embodied it fully, though in an unmanifest way. May I ask where you stand among these men?”
“Let's leave this aside for now.” said Mencius.
Chou then asked, “What about Bo Yi and I Yin?”
Mencius said, “They had different ways. The way of not serving a ruler he didn't respect, not taking charge of a people whom he didn't approve; coming forward when there was good government and retiring when there was disorder—this was the way of Bo Yi.”
“Serving any ruler, taking charge of any people; coming forward when there was good government, coming forward when there was disorder—this was the way of I Yin.”
“Serving when it was proper to serve, retiring when it was proper to retire; continuing long when it was proper and finishing quickly where it was proper—this was the way of Confucius. I have not yet been able to conduct myself in the way of the ancient sages. But if I could study with one of them, I would choose Confucius.”
“Were Bo Yi and I Yin comparable to Confucius?”
“No way” Mencius replied. “Since the beginning of human existence, there has never been anyone like Confucius.”
“But weren't there at least some ways in which these men were equal to him?”
“Sure. If any of them were to be the ruler of a territory of one hundred li, they would be able to get all the nobles to come to their court, and soon they would have control of the whole realm. And if the acquisition of the realm required a single unjust act, or the murder of one innocent man, they would not do it. In this, they would be the same.”
“Then may I ask how they would differ?”
Mencius said: “Zai Wo, Zi Gong and Yu Jo all had enough wisdom to recognize a sage. If any one of them were in a low position, they would never have resorted to flattery to get something more desirable.”
“Zai Wo said, ‘From what I have seen of our Master, he was far superior to Yao and Shun.’”
“Zi Gong said, ‘I have seen his propriety and have understood his ways of government. I have heard his music and recognize his virtue. From a hundred generations after, through a hundred generations of kings, none will be able to improve on him. From the beginning of human existence, there has never been anyone like the Master.’”
“Yu Jo said, ‘How it be so only among men? Among mammals there is the Qi-lin; among birds there is the phoenix; among hills, Mt. T'ai; among puddles and rivulets, the rivers and oceans. Now, each of these are of the same species, and the sage is of the same species as man, but he emerges from the group and stands out from the crowd. From the beginning of human existence, there has never been one as outstanding as Confucius.’”
[2A:3] Mencius said, “He who uses force as a pretense of humaneness is the de-facto strongman among the princes. But such a strongman must have a large state in order to be effective. The man who uses his virtue to practice humaneness is the true king. To be a real king you don't need an especially large territory. Tang did it with only seventy li and King Wen did it with only one hundred li. When you use your power to force people into submission, they will never submit with their hearts; it is only because they don't have enough strength to resist. When people submit to virtue, they are happy from the bottom of their hearts, and they submit sincerely, the way the seventy disciples submitted to Confucius. The Book of Odes says:”
From the west, from the east,
From the south, from the north;
No one thought of not-submitting.
This is what I am talking about.
[2A:4] Mencius said: “Humaneness brings glory and non-humaneness brings disgrace. So if you hate disgrace but still involve yourself in what is not humaneness, it is like hating moisture and living in a basement. If you really hate it, you should honor virtue and respect the good. Install good men into positions of rank and give jobs to people of ability. During the breaks in warfare, you should take the opportunity to clarify your governmental procedures and legal codes. If you do this, even larger states will have a healthy respect for you. In the Book of Odes there is the verse that goes:”
Before the sky was dark with rain
I collected branches from the mulberry grounds
And built doors and windows for my nest.
Now, you all below,
Who will laugh at me? 6
“Confucius said, ‘Did not the writer of this poem understand the Way of government?’ If you are able to govern well your state or clan, who will dare to take you lightly?”
“But when modern princes have any kind of respite they spend it on indolent pleasure-seeking and gratification, which is to invite misfortune. Fortune and misfortune come from no place other than yourself. The Book of Odes says:”
Always speak according to the Mandate
And you will invite much fortune.Odes, 241
The Tai Jia (a section in the Book of History) says:
The calamities sent from Heaven can still be changed. But the calamities brought on by yourself—from these you cannot escape with your life.
These two citations reflect my point.
Mencius said: “Respect the worthy and employ the capable; put talented people in key positions, then all the shi of the realm will be pleased and will want to be members of your court.”
In the market-places, charge land-rent, but don't tax the goods; or make concise regulations and don't even charge rent. Do this, and all the merchants in the realm will be pleased, and will want to set up shop in your markets.
At the borders, make inspections but don't charge tariffs. Then all the travelers in the realm will be pleased and will want to traverse your highways.
If the farmers merely have to help each other with the government fields, and do not have to pay an additional tax, then all the farmers in the realm will be pleased, and will want to till your fields.
If you do not charge fines to the unemployed in your marketplaces, then all the people in the realm will be pleased, and will want to become your subjects.
“If you are really able to put these five points into practice, then the people from the neighboring states will look up to you as a parent. Now, since the time people have been born into this world, there has never been a case of someone being able to consistently succeed in making children attack their own parents. This being the case, you will have no enemies in the realm. The one who has no enemies in the realm is the vicegerent of Heaven. There is no case of one who attained to this level, and who did not attain to true kingship.”
Mencius said: “All people have a heart which cannot stand to see the suffering of others. The ancient kings had this heart which could not stand to see the suffering of others, and, with this, operated a government which could not stand to see the suffering of the people. If, in this state of mind, you ran a government which could not endure people's suffering, you could govern the realm as if you were turning it in the palm of your hand.”
“Why do I say all human beings have a heart which cannot stand to see the suffering of others? Even nowadays, if an infant were about to fall into a well, anyone would be upset and concerned. This concern would not be due to the fact that the person wanted to get in good with the baby's parents, or because s/he wanted to improve his/her reputation among the community or among his/her circle of friends. Nor would it be because he/she was afraid of the criticism that might result from a show of non-concern.”
“From this point of view, we can say that if you did lack concern for the infant, you would not be human. Also, to lack a sense of shame and disgust would not be human; to lack a feeling of humility and deference is to be ‘in-human’ and to lack a sense of right and wrong is to be inhuman.”
“The sense of concern for others is the starting point of humaneness. The feeling of shame and disgust is the starting point of fairness. The sense of humility and deference is the starting point of Propriety and the sense of right and wrong is the starting point of Wisdom.”
“People's having these four basic senses is like their having four limbs. Having these four basic senses and yet claiming inability to act on them is to cheat yourself. To say that the ruler doesn't have them is to cheat the ruler. Since all people have these four basic senses within themselves, they should all understand how to enhance and develop them. It is like when a fire just starts, or a spring first bubbles out of the ground. If you are able to develop these four basic senses, you will be able to take care of everybody within the four seas. If you do not develop them, you won't even be able to take care of your own parents.”
[2A:7] Mencius said: “How is it that the arrow-maker is being less Humane than the armor-maker? The arrow maker is worried about people not getting hurt, while the armor-maker is worried if people doget hurt. The situation is the same with the healer and the coffin maker. Therefore, you should be careful about choosing your occupation.”
“Confucius said: ‘It is the degree of humaneness in a village that determines its beauty. If you choose not to abide in humaneness, how will you ever attain wisdom?’”
Now humaneness is that which Heaven prizes above all else, and it is the proper abode for human beings. Nobody can be hindered from being Humane by anyone else—this is merely a hindrance to wisdom. To be not-Humane and not wise is to lack propriety and fairness and become a slave to others. Being a slave to others and being ashamed of it is like the bow-maker being ashamed of making bows and the arrow-maker being ashamed of making arrows. If you are ashamed of these things you should work at your humaneness. The Humane person is like an archer. The archer prepares himself before shooting. If, upon shooting, he misses the bull's-eye, he does not blame the man who beat him. He turns and reflects on himself.
[2A:8] Mencius said: “When someone told Zi Lu about one of his faults, he was happy. When Yu heard words of goodness, he would bow in respect. The great Shun surpassed even these men. He regarded the goodness of others to be the same as his. He let go of his arbitrariness and followed others, happily learning from them in order to develop his goodness. From the time when he was a farmer, a potter and a fisherman, up until he became emperor, he never stopped learning from others.”
“To learn from others to develop one's goodness is also to develop goodness together with others. Therefore, for the Noble Man, there is nothing greater than to develop goodness together with others.”
[2A:9] Mencius said: “Bo Yi would not serve a ruler he did not respect, and would not hang around with people he didn't like. He wouldn't attend the court of an evil prince and wouldn't converse with an evil person. To attend the court of an evil prince, or converse with an evil person, would be the same for him as wearing the ceremonial gown and cap and sitting in mud and charcoal. Furthermore, if he were standing with a villager who hat was on crooked, he would leave him in embarrassment, as if he would be polluted by it. Therefore, even if one of the nobles sent him something with good intentions, he would often not accept it. Indeed, he would not let anything near him that he considered dirty.”
Hui Liu Xia was not ashamed to be associated with an impure prince, and was not embarrassed to hold a low-level job. He would show himself without concealing his worth, always keeping to what he considered to be the right way. When he was let go from a job, he did not get resentful, and when in dire straits, he did not complain. Therefore, he used to say: ‘You are you and I am I. Even if you stand right next to me wearing no shirt, you cannot pollute me.’ Thus he associated with people freely, without losing himself. When pressed to stay in government he would stay. In this lack of a need to escape, we can see that he did not need to avoid that which he considered unclean.
Po Yi was rigid and Liu Xia Hui was too relaxed. The Noble Man does not like to be too rigid or too relaxed.