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Know the Vegetative Power of the Pine and Cypress (是以知松柏之茂也)
03-25-2013, 12:14 PM
Post: #1
Know the Vegetative Power of the Pine and Cypress (是以知松柏之茂也)
When Confucius was reduced to extreme distress between Khan and Tshâi, for seven days he had no cooked meat to eat, but only some soup of coarse vegetables without any rice in it. His countenance wore the appearance of great exhaustion, and yet he kept playing on his lute and singing inside the house.

Yen Hui was outside, selecting the vegetables, while Tsze-lû and Tsze-kung were talking together, and said to him, 'The Master has twice been driven from Lû; he had to flee from Wei; the tree beneath which he rested was cut down in Sung; he was reduced to extreme distress in Shang and Kâu; he is held in a state of siege here between Khan and Tshâi; any one who kills him will be held guiltless; there is no prohibition against making him a prisoner. And yet he keeps playing and singing, thrumming his lute without ceasing. Can a superior man be without the feeling of shame to such an extent as this?' Yen Hui gave them no reply, but went in and told their words to Confucius, who pushed aside his lute, and said, 'Yû and Tshze are small men. Call them here, and I will explain the thing to them.'

When they came in, Tsze-lû said, 'Your present condition may be called one of extreme distress.' Confucius replied, 'What words are these! When the Superior man has free course with his principles, that is what we call his success; when such course is denied, that is what we call his failure. Now I hold in my embrace the principles of benevolence and righteousness, and with them meet the evils of a disordered age;-- where is the proof of my being in extreme distress? Therefore looking inwards and examining myself, I have no difficulties about my principles; though I encounter such difficulties (as the present), I do not lose my virtue. It is when winter's cold is come, and the hoar-frost and snow are falling, that we know the vegetative power of the pine and cypress. This strait between Khan and Tshâi is fortunate for me.' He then took back his lute so that it emitted a twanging sound, and began to play and sing. At the same time Tsze-lû, hurriedly, seized a shield, and began to dance, while Tsze-kung said, 'I did not know before the height of heaven nor the depth of the earth.'

The ancients who had got the Tâo were happy when reduced to extremity, and happy when having free course. Their happiness was independent of both these conditions. The Tâo, and its characteristics!-- let them have these and distress and success come to them as cold and heat, as wind and rain in the natural order of things. Thus it was that Hsü Yû. found pleasure on the north of the river Ying, and that the earl of Kung enjoyed himself on the top of mount Kung.




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