What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with
this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is
The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it
would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait
till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be
There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing
more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is
watchful over himself, when he is alone.
While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the
mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those
feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there
ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is
the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and
this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a
happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things
will be nourished and flourish.
Chung-ni said, "The superior man embodies the course of the Mean;
the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
"The superior man's embodying the course of the Mean is because he
is a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The mean man's
acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a mean man,
and has no caution."
The Master said, "Perfect is the virtue which is according to the
Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice
The Master said, "I know how it is that the path of the Mean is
not walked in:-The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up
to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not
understood:-The men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the
worthless do not come up to it.
"There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can
The Master said, "Alas! How is the path of the Mean untrodden!"
The Master said, "There was Shun:-He indeed was greatly wise! Shun
loved to question others, and to study their words, though they
might be shallow. He concealed what was bad in them and displayed what
was good. He took hold of their two extremes, determined the Mean, and
employed it in his government of the people. It was by this that he
The Master said "Men all say, 'We are wise'; but being driven
forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to
escape. Men all say, 'We are wise'; but happening to choose the course
of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month."
The Master said "This was the manner of Hui:-he made choice of the
Mean, and whenever he got hold of what was good, he clasped it firmly,
as if wearing it on his breast, and did not lose it."
The Master said, "The kingdom, its states, and its families, may
be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked
weapons may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean
cannot be attained to."
Tsze-lu asked about energy.
The Master said, "Do you mean the energy of the South, the energy of
the North, or the energy which you should cultivate yourself?
"To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to
revenge unreasonable conduct:-this is the energy of southern
regions, and the good man makes it his study.
"To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:-this is the
energy of northern regions, and the forceful make it their study.
"Therefore, the superior man cultivates a friendly harmony,
without being weak.-How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in
the middle, without inclining to either side.-How firm is he in his
energy! When good principles prevail in the government of his country,
he does not change from what he was in retirement. How firm is he in
his energy! When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains
his course to death without changing.-How firm is he in his energy!"
The Master said, "To live in obscurity, and yet practice wonders, in
order to be mentioned with honor in future ages:-this is what I do not
"The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but when
he has gone halfway, he abandons it:-I am not able so to stop.
"The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may
be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret.-It is
only the sage who is able for this."
The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and
yet is secret.
Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the
knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even
the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the
ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practice; yet in its
utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry
into practice. Great as heaven and earth are, men still find some
things in them with which to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were
the superior man to speak of his way in all its greatness, nothing
in the world would be found able to embrace it, and were he to speak
of it in its minuteness, nothing in the world would be found able to
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The hawk flies up to heaven;
the fishes leap in the deep." This expresses how this way is seen
above and below.
The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements, in
the intercourse of common men and women; but in its utmost reaches, it
shines brightly through Heaven and earth.
The Master said "The path is not far from man. When men try to
pursue a course, which is far from the common indications of
consciousness, this course cannot be considered The Path.
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'In hewing an ax handle, in
hewing an ax handle, the pattern is not far off. We grasp one ax
handle to hew the other; and yet, if we look askance from the one to
the other, we may consider them as apart. Therefore, the superior
man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to
them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.
"When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and
exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the
path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.
"In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of
which have I as yet attained.-To serve my father, as I would require
my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince as
I would require my minister to serve me: to this I have not
attained; to serve my elder brother as I would require my younger
brother to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example
in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to
this I have not attained. Earnest in practicing the ordinary
virtues, and careful in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he
has anything defective, the superior man dares not but exert
himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow
himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions,
and his actions have respect to his words; is it not just an entire
sincerity which marks the superior man?"
The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he
is; he does not desire to go beyond this.
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