(continued from Extraverts & Introverts)
“The spiritual man has peace in his everyday life and it even overflows into his dreams. The evil man is a wolf in his everyday life and he has a growl overflowing even into his laughter.”
This is a typically Chinese way of teaching, it’s semi humorous, a growl even in his laughter. It’s in two lines of Chinese verse, many of these things you’ll see are in two lines, two contrasting lines. “The spiritual man has peace in his everyday life and it overflows into his dreams. The evil man is a wolf in his everyday life and there’s a growl overflowing even into his laughter.”
“Those who hold to virtue will at some time find themselves deserted. But those who rely on wealth and power, though they may think they’re using the world, in fact they are being used by the world. They are always in dread and loneliness.”
This is a typically Chinese phrase that follows; “Don’t try to do it superbly well. It’s enough not to make a mess of it.”
Some of these things are very profound. If you do it superbly well you want appreciation and also you’ll attract envy and they’ll try and find something wrong with it. If they can’t find something wrong with it they’ll try and find something wrong with you. If they can’t find something wrong with you they’ll invent something and that’s bad for them. So don’t do things superbly well. Just don’t make a mess of them.
“If you do a virtuous act don’t expect the virtue of gratitude from them. If they don’t actively hate you, that’s virtue enough in them, and it’s probably all your virtue was worth anyway.”
These things are also very profound. If you do a virtuous act don’t expect gratitude – it’s enough if they don’t positively hate you. It’s true. Bernard Shaw made a remark: “I can’t think why he dislikes me so. It’s not as though I’ve ever done anything for him.”
“He who does not go near riches at all is pure. He who, though brought near riches, is not stained by them is purest of all. He who does not know any clever tricks and strategies is noble, but noblest of all is he who knows them but does not use them.”
That’s a difference in Japanese and Chinese psychology – the Japanese think of a poor character and a noble character as a man who never thinks of selling himself for money or of using clever tricks. They think that’s a pure and noble man. The Chinese think a pure and noble man is one who knows all the tricks and strategies and doesn’t use them.
If you’re playing the gambling game Mahjong, which is played in both countries, there are ways of cheating, you know you put up the thing. There’s a man behind you smoking and he’s puffing out what you’ve got to your opponents with puffs of the cigarette. So, an expert Mahjong player never turns the pieces up, he feels them with his fingertips and leaves them face down on the table. In playing this game there are other ways of cheating, in playing this game if a Japanese normally finds the other man’s cheating he simply leaves, but if the Chinese finds the other man’s cheating he stays on, but he cheats himself. There’s some difference and that is from a modern Japanese commentator who makes that remark.
“If he constantly hears harsh admonitions but can use them to clean his heart then they’re a sort of wet stone for his training. But he who always hears pleasant things and is complacent about them ends up in a ditch of poison.”
The Indian version of this is that Rama Tirtha used to say that criticism is like a sharp razor and you can use it to shave. Even the best of men unconsciously, egoism and pride and little defects begin to sprout like a beard sprouts unconsciously from the face. When you hear that criticism it may be spiteful and malicious and so on, but you can use it to shave those little faults off. “If he constantly hears harsh admonitions but can use them to clean his heart they are to him a sort of wet stone for his training.”
“If a great official comes with arrogance of wealth, I meet it with good will. If he comes with rank and power, I meet it with righteousness. The superior one is not to be caged by the semblance of superiority.”
“A truly superior man is not caged by this arrogance of rank. The superior man, when in the world, has something of the forests and mountains in his heart. When in forests and mountains, he sends his blessings to the world.”
This is an important phrase in the Chinese Taoist idea. To have something of the forest and the mountain, the remoteness and the stillness of these places in your heart, even when in the world, when a busy official in the world, there’s some space, there’s some margin. He’s not completely caught up. He can handle the world, but he’s not completely dominated by it; there’s mountain and forest, a touch of it, in his heart.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are: