6A. Gao Zi (part one) 吿子上
Gao Zi said: “Human nature is like a willow tree (the wood of which is good for making vessels) and fairness is like the cups and bowls that are carved out of the wood. To make human nature to be Humane and Just is like making the willow wood into cups and bowls.”
Mencius said: “Can you make cups and bowls while keeping the nature of the willow? It is by destroying the willow that you make cups and bowls. If we destroy the willow to make cups and bowls, should we also destroy the human being to make humaneness and fairness? This kind of talk from you will certainly lead the people to see humaneness and fairness as anathema.”
[6A:2] Gao Zi said: “Human nature is like whirling water. If you let it out on the east side, it will go east. If you let it out on the west side, it will go west. Similarly, human nature has no predisposition for good or evil, just as water has no predisposition for east or west.”
Mencius said: “It is true that water has no predisposition for east or west. But doesn't it have a predisposition for up and down? The goodness of the human nature is just like the downward tendency of water. Just as all water has a down-going tendency, all people have a tendency toward goodness.”
“Now you can splash water and make it fly over your head, or you can force it to rise up by damming it. But are these the nature of water? These are after all, forcing it. You can push people into doing evil, but is this their basic nature? ”
[6A:3] Gao Zi said: “What we mean by life is nature.”
Mencius said: “If life is nature, then this the same as saying white is whiteness?”
“Then is the whiteness of a feather the same as the whiteness of snow? And is the whiteness of snow the same as the whiteness of a pearl?”
“Then is the nature of a dog the same as the nature of a cow? And is the nature of a cow the same as the nature of a person?”
[6A:4] Gao Zi said: “By nature we desire food and sex. Humaneness is internal and not external, the sense of fairness is external and not internal.”
Mencius said: “How can you say humaneness is internal and the sense of fairness is external?”
Gao Zi replied: “If there is an old man and I regard him as old, it is not because the age is in me. It is like seeing something white. I regard it as white because the whiteness is outside of me. Therefore, I say that the sense of fairness is external.”
Mencius said, “Maybe there is no difference in acknowledging the whiteness of a white horse and the whiteness of a white man, but is there no difference between the acknowledgement of the age of an old horse, and the age of an old man? And does the sense of fairness consist in perceiving the age or acknowledging it?”
Gao Zi said: “I love my younger brother, but I might not love the younger brother of a man from Qin. This depends on me, so I call it ‘internal.’ I respect the age of a man of Chu the same way I respect the age of a man of my family. Since this depends on the age, I say it is ‘external.’”
Mencius said, “Our enjoyment of the roast beef of Qin does not differ from that of our own roast beef. If such a thing as roast beef is like this, then is our enjoyment of roast beef also ‘external’?”
Meng Ji Zi asked Gong Du Zi, saying: “Why do you say that the sense of fairness is ‘internal’?” He said “It is the carrying out of my own sense of respect; therefore I say it is internal.”
“If a villager is older than your brother by a year, who should be paid greater respect?” [Gongdu replied] “My elder brother.” “When serving wine, who should be served first?” “The villager should be served first. The one you respect is the former, and the one you treat as an elder is the latter. So after all, the sense of fairness is external, and not internal.”
Gongdu Zi could not respond, and brought the matter to Mencius. Mencius said, “Ask him: who do you respect, your uncle? Or your brother?” He will say to pay respect to your uncle. You should then ask him ‘If your younger brother is playing the role of the deceased at a funeral, to whom should one pay respect?’ In that case he will say that he would pay respect to his younger brother. Then you should say: ‘Why don't you continue to respect your uncle?’ He will that respect in this case is paid according to the position. Then you can also say that it is because of the position that you pay respect to the villager. Usually respect should be given to one's elder brother, but momentary respect should be paid to the villager. Ji Zi, hearing this, said: “When respect is to be paid to my uncle, I will respect him; when respect is to be paid to my younger brother, I will respect him. Thus, in the end, respect is based on the positions of other, and does not come from within.” Gong Du Zi said, “On a winter's day we drink broth; on a summer day we drink water. In this case are eating and drinking also external?”
Gong Duzi said: “Gao Zi says that human nature is neither good nor evil. Others say that human nature can be made good or evil. That is why when Kings Wen and Wu were in power, the people loved goodness, and when Yu and Li were in power, they were incorrigible.”
“Still others say that some people are inherently good and some are inherently evil. Therefore, under a good ruler like Yao, there was such an evil man as Xiang, and to such a bad father as Gu Sou, a good son Shun was born. And with a nephew of the senior branch as evil as Zhou on the throne, such good uncles as Qi, Viscount of Wei, and Prince Bi Gan lived.”
“Now you say that human beings are inherently good. Then are all the others wrong?”
Mencius said: “When I say human beings are inherently good, I am talking about their most fundamental emotional qualities. If someone does evil, it is not the fault of their natural endowment. Everyone has the feeling of concern for the well-being of others; everyone has the sense of shame and disgust at their own evil; everyone has the sense to treat others courteously and respectfully; everyone has the sense of right and wrong.”
The feeling of concern for the well-being of others is humaneness. The sense of shame and disgust is fairness; the sense to treat others with courtesy and respect is Propriety. The sense of right and wrong is Wisdom. Humaneness, fairness, Propriety and Wisdom are not melded into us from the outside. They are our original endowments—you have really not thought it through, have you?
Hence it is said: ‘If you strive for it, you will attain it; if you ignore it, you will lose it.’ Men differ in terms of actualization: some are double, some fivefold and some manifest it to an incalculable degree. This difference is because some are not able to fully develop their natural endowments. The Book of Odes says:
Heaven gives birth to all men
And each thing possesses its principle
When people maintain this norm
They come to love its splendid virtues.
“Confucius said, ‘The writer of this poem certainly knew the Way.’ Therefore, wherever there is anything, there is a concomitant principle. When the people embrace the norms of goodness, they can enjoy its splendid virtues.”
Mencius said: “In years of good harvest the children are wholesome; in years of bad harvest, they are incorrigible. This is not because Heaven imparts different endowments of ability, but because their minds are overcome by external influences.”
Now if you plant wheat and barley and cover them, and the soil is the same, and they are planted at the same time, they will all grow strongly. And when the time is right, they will all be ripe. Even though there are differences, it is because of differences in soil fertility, the nourishment from rain, or the amount of care and cultivation given by the farmers.
So whenever things are of the same species, they will resemble each other. This being so, how could we doubt that it is the same with men? I and the sage are of the same species. Therefore, Longzi said: ‘Even if I don't know the foot-size when making sandals, I know enough that I won't make bushel baskets.’ The similarity in the size of the sandals is because of the similarity in the size of everyone's feet.
We also have similarities in taste. That's how Yi Ya 7 knows what I like beforehand. Imagine if his taste was inherently different than that of others like that of another species such as dog or horse. How could everybody love the taste of Yi Ya's cooking? The fact that everybody agrees that Yi Ya's cooking is the best shows the sameness in people's taste.
It is the same with the ear. The fact that everyone takes the music of Conductor Kuang as the best, shows the sameness in the ears of everyone.
It is the same with the eyes. Everyone knows that there is no one in the world as handsome as Zi Du. And if you don't think he is handsome, you are blind.
Therefore I say, there is a standard for taste, there is a standard for music, and there is a standard for beauty. Shouldn't it also be so with the things of the mind? What is it that is the same with people's minds? It is that they know the same principle and have the same sense of fairness. The sage knows the sameness of our minds beforehand. Therefore his principles and sense of fairness fit to our minds, in the same way that the meat of grain-eating animals fits our taste.
Mencius said, “The greenery on Niu Mountain was once beautiful, but since it was near a large city, it was attacked by lumberjacks. How could it retain its beauty? Still, by the respite gotten day and night, being nourished by the rain and dew, there was no lack of the growth of new buds and sprouts. But then cattle and sheep came and fed themselves, and by the time they were done, it was completely barren.”
If people saw this barrenness, they might have imagined that there had never been any greenery. How could this be the mountain's original nature?
In the case of people, how could they lack the mind of humaneness and fairness? But the daily damage done to the goodness of their mind is just like the lumberjacks did to the mountain. Being chopped down day after day, how can its beauty have a chance to emerge?
Having some time to rest day and night, and breathing in the morning air, your likes and dislikes may be somewhat similar to those of other people. But due to your daily activities you are suffocated. Being suffocated, you can't get enough fresh air. Fresh air being insufficient, your goodness of mind is not nourished, and there will be little difference between you and the animals. People see our animalistic nature and assume that we have never had great endowments. How could this be our real disposition?
Therefore, if it is properly nourished, there is nothing that will not grow. If it is not nourished, there is nothing that will not die. Confucius said: “Use it and you will keep it; ignore it and you will lose it. No one knows the times of its coming or going, nor its location.” What else could he be talking about but the mind?
Mencius said, “No wonder the king is not wise. With even the hardiest plants in the world, if you expose them to a day of heat and ten days of cold, they will not be able to grow. I rarely have a chance to see the king, and after I leave he is approached by the cold ones. How can I make his wisdom grow?”
Now chess is actually a minor art, but if you don't concentrate well while learning it, you'll never be any good. Chessman Qiu is the best player in the country, and let's say two men are learning from him. One man concentrates completely on everything Qiu says, while the other one, while listening, is thinking about that goose over there and how he would string up a retrievable arrow and shoot it. Even though he is learning together with the other man, he will never be equal to him. Is this because of a difference in intelligence? Of course not.
[6A:10] Mencius said, “I like fish and I like bear's paw, but if I have to choose between them, I will let go of the fish and take the bear's paw. I like life and I like fairness. But if I have to choose between them I will let go of life and take fairness.”
I want life, but there are things more important to me than life. Therefore there are things that I won't do just to live. I hate death, but there are things that I hate more than death, and thus there are certain kinds of suffering that I won't avoid.
If you teach a man to value nothing more than life, then what means will he not use in order to save his life? If you teach people to hate nothing more than death, then what will they not do, in order to avoid death?
But there are some things that people will not do to save their lives and some things that people will not do to avoid death. This means that there are things more important to them than life, and more hateful to them than death. It is not only the worthy who have this capacity. All people have it, but the worthy are able to be consistent in it.
When a bowl of rice or a cup of soup lies between life and death, and you offer it in an insulting way, any man on the street will not accept it. If you kick it at him with your feet, even a beggar will not take it.
Yet a man will accept a huge sum of money without any consideration of propriety. What can the money add to his person? I can beautify my house, gain the favors of wives and concubines, or gain the attention of greedy acquaintances. Yet before, I would not receive a bowl of rice to save my life, but now I will accept lots of money for the beautification of my home, for the favors of wives and concubines or to give to greedy acquaintances. Was it also not possible to decline this?
This is called “losing one's original mind.”
[6A:11] Mencius said, “Humaneness is the mind of human beings. Fairness is their path. To abandon the path and not follow it, or to lose the mind and not know enough to seek it: this is a pity indeed!”
When people lose their chickens and dogs, they know enough to look for them, but when they lose their mind, they do not know enough to seek it. The way of study and inquiry is none other than the search for the lost mind.
[6A:12] Mencius said, “Let's say there is a man whose fourth finger is crooked and will not straighten. It does not cause him pain or hinder his work, yet if he heard of someone who could fix it, he would easily travel as far as Qin or Chu to get it fixed, so that he might be like other men.”
We know enough to be bothered when our finger is not like that of others, but don't know enough to be bothered when our mind is not like that of others. This is called “not knowing the relative importance of things.”
[6A:13] Mencius said, “If someone wanted to raise a large tung or catalpa tree, 8 anyone would know how to cultivate it. But when it comes to themselves, they don't know how to cultivate. How could a person not care as much about himself as he does about a paulownia tree? He does not think deeply enough. ”
[6A:14] Mencius said, “When it comes to their own person, people care about all parts equally. Caring about all parts equally, they should nourish all parts equally. If there is not an inch of their flesh that they do not care about, there should not be an inch of flesh that they do not nourish. Therefore, when it comes to considering what is good and what is bad, how could it be otherwise? They cling to themselves, and nothing more. In one's body there are is noble and base parts, small and great parts. One does not use the small to damage the great, nor use the base to harm the noble. Those who cultivate the small are lesser men, and those who cultivate the great are great men. Now, if there is a horticulturist who neglects the paulownia and catalpa tree and cultivates the thorny jujube, then he is a lousy horticulturalist. Someone who nourishes one finger and forgets about the back and shoulders is demented. People disdain those who care only about food and drink, since they nourish the small and thus miss what is great. If those who care only about food and drink did not miss out on the great, then how could the mouth and stomach be equal to an inch of flesh?”
[6A:15] Gong Du Zi said, “If all men are equal, how is it that there are greater and lesser men?”
Mencius said, “Some follow their greater part and some follow their lesser part.”
“Why do some follow their greater part and some follow their lesser part?”
Mencius said, “The organs such as the eye and ear cannot discriminate and are thus confused by things. Things are interconnected with other things, which lead one further away. The function of the mind is to discriminate—if you discriminate you will attain it. If you don't discriminate, you won't attain it. These are what Heaven has bestowed upon us. If you first establish yourself in the greater part, then the small part cannot be snatched away from you. This is the essential of being a great man.”
[6A:16] Mencius said: “There is a nobility that belongs to Heaven and a nobility that belongs to man. Humaneness, fairness, loyalty, truthfulness and a tireless delight in the good—these are the nobility of Heaven. Duke, lord, and minister—these are the nobility of man.”
The ancients cultivated the heavenly nobilities and the human nobilities naturally followed. Modern men cultivate the heavenly nobilities in order to gain the human nobilities, and once they have these, they throw away the heavenly nobilities. How mixed up they are! In the end they will lose everything.
[6A:17] Mencius said, “All men desire nobility, and though they all have something truly noble within themselves, they do not reflect on it. The nobility dispensed by people is not true nobility. Those honored by Chao Meng can also be debased by Chao Meng. The Book of Odes says:”
He has made us drunk with his wine
And filled us with virtue.
“This means they have been satiated with humaneness and fairness, and therefore they do not need to taste the fine foods of man. He has received broad and far-reaching praise and therefore has no desire for the finery of men.”
[6A:18] Mencius said: “Humaneness overcomes non-humaneness just as water overcomes fire. But those of modernity who attempt the practice of humaneness are like a person who tries to put out a burning wagonload of wood with a cup of water. When it doesn't work, they say that water cannot put out fire. It is the same situation as those who attempt to deal with non-humaneness in a similar fashion. In the end, they will be completely lost.”
[6A:19] Mencius said: “The seeds of the five grains are the best. But if they do not ripen, they are not even as good as wild grasses. The value of humaneness also resides in its being brought to maturity.”
[6A:20] Mencius said: “When Yi taught archery, he always pulled the bow to its maximum. His students also had to strive to do this. A master carpenter, when teaching, always uses a compass and square. The students must also use a compass and square.”